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Sat, Feb 15, 2003

AFA: United Gives To The Rich What It Steals From The Poor

Flight Attendants Say They're Being Robbed

United Airlines flight attendants said Friday that airline management has set a new, higher target for annual labor cost cuts. The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) called the new target "overreaching and inequitable."

In an AFA statement to Aero-News.Net, the flight attendants said United now demands $2.56 billion in annual cuts from its unions. That's $160 million more than United's previously announced savings target of $2.4 billion a year.

In addition, the AFA accused management of increasing its total target for annual flight attendant contract cuts by 75 percent over the allocation provided to the unions in August 2002 ($160 million increase) -- upping the total flight attendant cuts to $314 million annually. "This management proposal places the entire burden for the increased cuts on the backs of the lowest paid employees at United: flight attendants," said the AFA release. 

If the flight attendants' percentage share of the total labor cuts package had not changed from the pre-bankruptcy allocation, the new total would be $179 million.

What the union said it found particularly troubling was that this new proposal takes more from its lowest paid workers while reducing the cuts to employees making more money by as much as 35 percent.

"AFA is committed to ensuring that United Airlines successfully reorganizes, but our participation must be fair; the allocation announced yesterday is not," said AFA United Master Executive Council President Greg Davidowitch.

AFA said United has offered no explanation for its new numbers in the allocation of concessions among the various employee groups.

On top of significantly reducing pay, requiring flight attendants to pay more out of pocket for health insurance, and forcing each flight attendant to contribute more of her or his own pay towards a retirement plan, the concessions management wants under the new plan would also eliminate the jobs of thousands of flight attendants at United, said the AFA.

United flight attendants have already accepted a temporary nine percent cut in wages. In order to assess what United actually needs going forward, management has to provide AFA with certain essential information -- a business plan, the total amount of concessions it seeks from all employees, and AFA's allocation of that amount.

"What we've been given to date is not a business plan, it is a marketing presentation, and it's going over like a ton of bricks with the employees who make up United Airlines," said AFA United Master Executive Council President Greg Davidowitch. "We are a service industry and we are an industry of people. Obliterating the front line workers in our company is bad business."

Davidovich promised the flight attendants would counter the United proposal. "AFA has been and will remain prepared to do all that is needed to aid in the recovery of our airline. We will not, however, blindly follow a strategy that is neither viable nor necessary. AFA will prepare and present United with a proposal that contains the amount of concessions consistent with a business plan that is a realistic assessment of what it will actually take for United to reorganize successfully."



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