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Mon, May 09, 2005

Alaska Airlines Baggage Handlers Reject Offer

500 Seattle Jobs Threatened

Alaska Airlines baggage handlers overwhelmingly rejected management's latest contract offer on Friday. Company executives had threatened in January to outsource all of the ramp work in Seattle, and must now decide whether to proceed with that course of action

"Our members are looking squarely in the face the possibility of losing their jobs," said Robert De Pace, President of IAM District 143, according to the Seattle Times. "But they are tired of being extorted by constantly holding this gun to our heads of farming out the work."

"This vote sends a clear message that IAM members will not support Alaska's transformation plan at the cost of their security," said De Pace. "The IAM is prepared to immediately resume bargaining to address the company's competitive needs while preserving our members' jobs."

A statement from the union said that 87 percent of the members rejected the offer, and 85 percent authorized a strike. The most recent contract offered wages reduced by almost 25 percent, higher contributions for health insurance, and the elimination of many shift and overtime differentials. The contract would have prevented outsourcing for only four years.

Dennis Hamel, Alaska Airlines vice president of employee services, sent an e-mail to employees Friday afternoon saying the company "will now work to reach a decision by the end of May on subcontracting the Seattle ramp function," according to the Seattle Times.

De Pace said that union lawyers would seek a temporary restraining order or sue the company if management decides the fire the Seattle employees without resuming contract talks.

Alaska Airlines has asked for $112 million in wage and benefit concessions from its unions, and wants $18 million from the baggage handlers. Last week, a federal arbitrator approved a new labor contract for the airline's pilots. Pilots took an average pay reduction of 26 percent, effective May 1st.



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