Flight attendants reach tentative pact with United

CHICAGO - Calling it a step forward from 10 years of contract concessions forced by United's bankruptcy, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA reached a tentative contract for the original 15,000 flight attendants at Chicago-based United.

The agreement, which the union's Master Executive Council recommended to the members on Jan. 8, does not cover thousands of flight attendants at Continental, which merged into United late last year. A Machinists' contract covers those attendants.

"United AFA members will carefully consider the tentative agreement for ratification," council President Greg Dawidowitch said. "Together, we will better our lives and our profession through our solidarity as we work towards improving our future. Next, we will achieve a single contract that is good for Flight Attendants, good for the company, and unite us all."

The United pact will be sent to AFA-CWA members at the carrier by the end of this month, with results due by mid-February after an electronic vote, said national union communications director Corey Caldwell. "It's the first time United Flight Attendants had the opportunity for improvements after a decade of concessions," she added.

Job security was a top issue, with management demanding productivity changes while refusing to provide it, Dawidowitch said in an Oct. 28 letter to members.

"We made clear from the start that for us to consider any productivity changes they will have to be structured in such a way as to be beneficial for Flight Attendants; and they cannot result in the devastating consequences of people being laid off," he wrote as bargaining accelerated through a special process, aided by a federal mediator.

"Our commitment to protecting job security of our most junior Flight Attendants remains a paramount component in resolving any productivity proposals from management. Any proposed reductions to our population must be accomplished through voluntary programs such as an early out, programs that give our members opportunity and a choice," Dawidowitch's letter added.

The summary confirms that: There is "protection against involuntary furlough as a direct result of modifications in the new agreement," it says.

For the first time in a decade, the flight attendants will get a raise: 10 percent upon ratification, then raises of two percent after one year, and 2.5 percent after the second and third years, according to AFA's summary of the pact's details. There's also a $5,000 signing bonus and higher company contributions to workers' 401(k) plans.

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