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Fri, May 20, 2005

US Airways - America West Merger: Labor's Jaundiced View

IAMA Leader Says US Airways Bankruptcy Was Ruse To Dump Labor Agreements

Bill Wise smells something fishy.

The US Airways mechanic and vice president of the machinists' union at US Airways' hub in Charlotte said Friday he believed the company's merger with America West was the real reason behind its second bankruptcy filing.

"Now, the real story comes out," Wise told ANN. "[Management] turned down our concession offers so they could get out of" their labor contracts. By doing so, Wise said, US Airways was able to lower salaries and benefits to a level more in line with those offered workers by America West.

"We were forced in line," he said.

In Thursday's news conference from Tempe, AZ, announcing the merger, America West CEO Doug Parker acknowledged there would be job cuts among the two companies' 42,000 workers. "But we're talking four- or five-thousand cuts and saving 35,000 jobs," he said.

Wise suggests many of those cuts will be made in Charlotte, even after Parker and Lakefield offered North Carolina lawmakers assurances that the Charlotte hub would only grow.

The machinists handle much of the heavy maintenance workload at US Airways -- a task outsourced by America West. One major contractor for heavy maintenance on commercial aircraft is Air Canada -- a company that's invested millions in the merger. Wise believes the Air Canada investment comes with a simple caveat: All heavy maintenance for the new airline will be handled north of the border.

If approved by both regulators and a Northern Virginia bankruptcy judge, the two companies plan to blend operations within about three years. Wise figures he and the other 4,000 or so machinists in Charlotte have about that much time to look for other jobs.

FMI: www.americawest.com, www.usairways.com

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