United Airlines AFA MEC Website

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA United Master Executive Council

Dear AFA: May 01, 2012

Date: May 1, 2012
Type: Dear AFA

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to Dear AFA. A democratic, Member driven Union of Flight Attendants for Flight Attendants. Today is Tuesday, May 1, 2012 and this is Chicago, Council 8 Volunteer, Sean Gardner, reporting and together we will do better.

Notification of Single Contract Negotiations

In accordance with Section 35 of our 2012-2016 Contract United was advised of our intent to seek modifications to our Contract this past Friday, April 27, 2012. This notice states we will be prepared to commence direct Negotiations no later than 120 days from April 27, 2012. We look forward to moving together into Negotiations for a Single Collective Bargaining Agreement. Our next step in this process will be to elect our two representatives on the Joint Negotiating Committee at our upcoming Spring MEC Meeting.

Join United Pilots “Walking to Wacker”

Yesterday, April 30, 2012 United pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) asked the National Mediation Board (NMB) to be released from their negotiations. The United pilots have been in negotiations since before their Contract became amendable on December 31, 2009.  ALPA was one of the first Unions at United to engage in post-bankruptcy negotiations, and with the announcement of the merger between United and Continental in May of 2010, the pilots began negotiations for a Joint Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), during negotiations, either party may make a request to the NMB to be released from mediations.  This is the first of many steps required before a strike could become possible.  If the NMB agrees, it will then proffer binding arbitration.  If after 10 days, both parties do not agree, an impasse would be declared.  This would then trigger a 30-day mandatory cooling-off period, before either party would be allowed to seek “self-help.”
As part of their escalating campaign to reach an Agreement, United pilots will be “Walking to Wacker,” Thursday, May 3, 2012 to mark the two-year anniversary of the announced United / Continental merger.  The pilots believe it is likely that they will still be without a Contract on that date, and this “walk” is intended to send a message to management that it’s time to reach an Agreement with the pilots.  Details are available on their website on how we can support the United pilots’ efforts to achieve their Contract negotiations.  Flight Attendants are encouraged to participate in uniform to stand in Solidarity with our United pilots.

Early Out Program Bidding Open

Bidding for the Early Out Program is opened and will remain open through May 31, 2012 at 0800 CST. Flight Attendants with 15 years of service are eligible to bid for the Early Out, including those on Leaves of Absence and Voluntary Furlough. Those who are awarded this bid will receive benefits consistent with the Early Out Letter of Agreement. United Master Executive Council (MEC) President Greg Davidowitch, talks about the benefits and considerations of this Program in a Letter to United Flight Attendants which is on our website.

There appears to be confusion regarding the differences between retirement eligibility (age 55 with 10 years of Company service) and eligibility for the Early Out.   While our Contract provides for early retirement when a Flight Attendant reaches age 55 and 10 years of company service, eligibility for the Early Out has no age requirement and requisite 15 years of service as a Flight Attendant (SW Classification seniority.)  Saying this a different way, a Flight Attendant can be eligible to retire at age 55 with 10 years of Company Service, but would not be eligible for the early out which specifically requires 15 years of service as a Flight Attendant (SW Classification Seniority.)

With regard to Pass Travel eligibility, it is important to recognize that United’s new pass travel eligibility chart is for retiree passes only and has no application for retiree medical benefits.  Because ‘retirement’ is not required in order to take advantage of the early out, there is a separate “stand alone” provision in the Letter of Agreement exclusively for pass travel eligibility for those meeting the 15 years of Flight Attendant service requirement for the early out and who are not eligible to retire.

In addition, the Early Out Letter of Agreement provides those Flight Attendants who have the requisite 15 years of service as a Flight Attendant and who are not eligible to retire an opportunity to “age into” retiree pass travel if, during the 15 year period following August 31, 2012, they attain the age and already have the years of service requirements outlined in the retiree pass travel chart at termination.  No one accrues additional years of service after they terminate their employment with United Airlines.  As an example, a Flight Attendant who is 43 years of age with 20 years of service who is awarded the Early Out will always have 20 years of service.  Two years following the August 31, 2012 Early Out termination date, this same Flight Attendant will be 45 years of age and will have the same 20 years of service.  At that time, the individual has “aged into” or becomes eligible for retiree pass travel.  To be clear, this “aged into” eligibility is limited strictly to pass travel eligibility.  There is no opportunity to age into retiree medical eligibility after termination from the company.  Putting it another way, in order to receive retiree medical benefits, one must be eligible for those benefits at the time they retire from the company.

United will accommodate as many Early Out awards as possible without negatively impacting the operation. We have compiled information about the benefits of the Early Out Program and retirement considerations on our website, including a link to United’s Q&A. Leaving a job is a major life changing decision. We encourage you to review the details of the Program carefully, attend Local Council meetings and ask questions. Include your family, friends and financial advisors in your discussion to ensure you make the best decision for your future.

Payroll Issues Continue

We have identified that there was some number of Flight Attendants who did not have any deductions withheld from their May 1, 2012 paycheck. While the specific reasons were not initially available, the company is in the process of sending letters to the affected Flight Attendants. Management has provided assurance that Flight Attendants who were affected will have no interruption to their health benefits due to the premiums not being paid. The amounts due for medical, dental and vision premiums will be deducted from the next paycheck.

Flight Attendants who have loan payments with Alliant Credit Union should contact the Credit Union in order to make arrangements for the payment to be made. In addition we have asked the company to provide information on how missed 401(k) deduction for loans and FSA contributions for Health care or Dependent care will be “caught up.”

If you have any questions please contact United’s payroll department by using the new fill-in form on the Flying Together website.  This form provides the employee with a unique identification number for their inquiry and generates an email receipt to verify that their inquiry was received. If you identify discrepancies, contact United’s Payroll Care Center via the new fill-in form on the Flying Together website or at 1-866-825-7297.  To manually navigate to the location of the fill-in form from the front page of Flying Together, go to the Employee Services tab, clicking on “My Pay Information” in the Subsidiary United box and then click on “Contact Payroll”.  Remember you have 60 days from the time of the payroll issue happens to file a dispute.

No Shares Access

In the company’s April 11, 2012 Inflight Services Weekly, United announced that Flight Attendants would have access to a web version of SHARES. In actuality, access to SHARES at this time is only available by using a computer in any domicile or on the United network. At AFA’s urging, the company has updated the crew access page to advise Flight Attendants of their inability to access SHARES on other than a United computer. It is anticipated that home access to SHARES will be available at some point in the near future.

Smisek Gets a Bonus, Pilots Seek Release from Negotiations and Delta Buys an Oil Refinery

As Flight Attendant frustrations continue to grow as a result of United’s continuing string of failures to get payroll right today, United and Continental CEO Jeff Smisek is rewarded by more than tripping his salary compared to last year to the tune of $13.4 million.

Smisek’s compensation was disclosed in United’s proxy statement filed this past Friday.  Last year, Smisek was given stock awards that were valued at $7.53 million when they were granted in February 2011, including $4.4 million in merger incentives.  Smisek was also paid a salary of $975,000, up from $791,250 in 2010; $4.41 million in separate incentive payments, up from $3.56 million in 2010; and $454,918 in other compensation, up from $9,766 the year before.  Additionally, he was also compensated $241,457 for travel and relocation assistance, as well as $67,947 for insurance premiums paid by the company. 

Also frustrated are pilots at United, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) who said Monday they have requested an official release from mediated negotiations.  The pilots Union reports they were “driven to the action” by an intransigent, out-of-touch management team that refuses to do its part in negotiating a Collective Bargaining Agreement that reflects the sacrifices and commitments that pilots have made to United Airlines.  Frustrated by the slow pace of their Contract talks, in an all too familiar scenario at United, the pilots seek release from the National Mediation Board (NMB).

Elsewhere in the industry it is reported that Delta Airlines has agreed to buy a refinery near Philadelphia from Conoco Philips.  Delta believes spending $150 million to acquire and then an additional $100 million to refurbish the plant will provide a reduction in their annual fuel expense once things are up and running.  Delta, which is thrilled at the acquisition believes it will be completed in the first half of 2012 and begin realizing fuel savings by the end of this year.

Is Delta grasping at straws?  Analysts remain puzzled by Delta’s interest in the refinery, a notoriously difficult business that is chronically unprofitable, much like the airline industry.  Despite skepticism from oil specialists, Delta shares gained 10% since the beginning of April as news of the interest in the refinery became public.  Maybe Delta’s plan will work out more favorably than if an airline were to, let’s just say, get into the hotel and car rental business. Time will tell.

That’s all for this evening!  Thank you for calling.  As we move forward together, management must recognize the value that Flight Attendants bring to the world’s largest airline. We will stand strong together to do Whatever It Takes! to achieve an industry leading Single Contract.


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