Arts & Video
News Archives
About LaborNet


US Air Rebuffed Offer To Work On Philadelphia Hub - Union

Wednesday December 29

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union said US Airways Group Inc. (UAIRQ) rebuffed its February offer to assist reorganizing operations at the airline's Philadelphia hub, where worker shortages snarled thousands of travelers in a Christmas nightmare.

In a press release Wednesday, the union said the carrier refused to meet union representatives and described the union's offer to "play a major positive role in transforming the Philadelphia hub into a safe, efficient operation," as " worthless."

Over the Christmas break, US Airways canceled hundreds of flights and left about 10,000 undelivered bags at Philadelphia, as well as stranding thousands of customers, according to The Associated Press.

The union has 8,200 US Airways members.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the airline petitioned employees for unpaid assistance over the New Year's weekend to prevent a recurrence of the shortages, caused in part by a spike in sick calls.

"You will not be paid if this is on your day(s) off. It promises to be a rewarding opportunity to learn more about the operation of our airline and come face to face with our customers," The Post quoted a US Airways memo as saying.

An International Association of Machinists spokesman told Dow Jones Newswires Wednesday that US Airways denies it's making that offer.

"It's a violation of law to have people work for nothing, not to mention a violation of our contracts," the spokesman said. "Because of the bankruptcy, our members' wages are already low. We're not about to start working for free."

The spokesman said the airline's position is now "completely different" to that reported in the Post.

"Maybe somebody told them it's a violation of law to ask people to work for free," he said.

Reached later, a spokesman for US Airways said the company asked employees with days off over the New Year's weekend to come without pay to the Philadelphia hub and assist passengers, in an effort to prevent logjams at security gates and check-in desks.

"They may be standing there greeting customers who arrive," said US Air spokesman David Castelveter. "[Volunteers will be] checking their documents to help them get through the check-in process quicker - they may not need to stand in the ticket counter line when they could use kiosks - offering suggestions how to get through security quicker, telling them what documents they need."

The spokesman didn't reveal how many employees had signed up for the airport philanthropy measure so far but said there had been a very positive response, including volunteers from among management ranks.

The spokesman said shaving a minute off processing time for each traveler could make a considerable difference.

"If the lady says 'sir I need to see your ticket' and you put your bags down and sort through for the ticket - that process might be a minute, multiply that by the number of people in the line," he said.

The spokesman said scheduled workers at Philadelphia would be compensated.

"The guy in Philadelphia loading bags or checking in customers, if he or she scheduled to work, he or she will be paid," he said.

The International Assocation of Machinist union workers, which represents baggage handlers and mechanics, are pulling in 21% lower wages than this time last year by court order, the US Airways spokesman said. He said the pay cut came because the sides have not concluded renegotiating wage terms.

Further, the union's restructuring suggestions for the Philadelphia hub were not "meaningful," he added.

"Their suggestions were well meant and understood but didn't come close to meeting our costcutting objectives," he said.

-Rob Curran; Dow Jones Newswires

contact LaborNet

copyright 2005 © LaborNet