…with AFA you know how your seniority will be protected.
“What will happen to my seniority?" That’s the question every airline worker asks in every merger. With AFA, the answer is in black and white in AFA's "Merger Policy and Related Employee Protective Provisions." Every Flight Attendant retains her or his schedule bidding seniority. This is commonly referred to as date-of-hire seniority. The entire process is implemented by elected Flight Attendant representatives from each group to ensure any discrepancies in seniority determination at each airline are resolved in a consistent manner on the combined list.
Throughout the history of airline mergers groups of workers have been treated differently. Court decisions and seniority arbitration awards, even when referred to as a "fair and equitable seniority integration," rarely leave anyone with the feeling of being treated fairly or equitably. A recent example is the arbitrator's decision in the case of the US Airways pilots. That arbitrator decided “fair and equitable” meant many US Airways pilots' should lose seniority and go to the bottom of the combined list when merging with the former America West pilots.
AFA has not always had the seniority merger protections we have today. In some mergers, Flight Attendants spent the majority of time fighting with each other over seniority, only to end up unhappy with the final results anyway. These corporate transactions were dividing us against ourselves at precisely the time we needed to be working together for the best Flight Attendant contract. We knew something had to be done. Since AFA established the current procedures for seniority merger– with the protection of each Flight Attendant's seniority – AFA members have had certainty in what can be a very unsettling and uncertain time. AFA has implemented the policy successfully over a dozen times.
On May 5, 2010 the AFA-CWA United Master Executive Council (MEC), made up of the 14 AFA Local Council Presidents at all United Flight Attendant base locations, unanimously voted that the seniority of Flight Attendants at Continental will be treated as if they were AFA Members, consistent with the AFA Constitution and Bylaws.
The Flight Attendant representatives from each airline review the specific conditions associated with each Flight Attendant's inflight seniority date, including former seniority arbitration awards, leave of absence seniority adjustments, conditions for the trigger of seniority accrual, etc. This work is extremely detailed, giving each Flight Attendant full credit for her/his seniority.
Our AFA-CWA Constitution and Bylaws requires the merger policy process starts right away. After the announcement of the merger AFA posted election notices for the Seniority Merge Integration Committee representing United Flight Attendants. At the last meeting of the MEC the two representatives on the committee were elected: AFA SFO Council 11 Member Rosemary Howard and AFA BOS Council 27 Member James Hurley.
Rosemary began her flying career at United Airlines in January of 1985 and during her six month probationary period she honored the ALPA strike and stood with her AFA sisters and brothers on the picketline. Rosemary has served on the AFA Grievance Committee, Membership Engagement Committee and worked as a long-time member of the AFA EAP/Professional Standards Committee. She also has a background in finance.
James began his flying career with United in July 2006, and previously he worked 7 years as a Flight Attendant at Continental. James is a Council Representative in Boston and he handles the responsibilities of Local Scheduling Chairperson and Reserve Chairperson.
Next, each Flight Attendant at both carriers is notified by certified mail of her/his seniority date.
- Each Flight Attendant in turn has an opportunity to question the results.
- If any adjustment for training date differences is made, such adjustments cannot result in a Flight Attendant changing relative positions on her or his own (pre-merger) seniority list. This prevents anyone from jumping over you on your own list as a result of such an adjustment for training dates. The effects of earlier furloughs, leaves of absence, mergers and other factors remain in place for both groups in the current seniority merger process.
- Once corrections and adjustments are made, if any, each Flight Attendant's bidding seniority is finalized and the seniority lists are merged into one combined list and the list is certified.
- Only upon reaching an agreement with the new United Airlines over a merged Collective Bargaining Agreement is the list then delivered to the company for implementation at the time of the merger of operations. This helps to encourage management to reach an agreement with us because they need the list to finalize the operational merger.
This final step helps to insulate our seniority from the whims of airline management as they decide whether to buy, sell, merge or acquire the airlines where we work. The fate of our seniority should never hinge on a corporate decision that is outside our control. Our focus should always stay on using the best provisions of each Contract to create a new industry-leading Contract with the terms and conditions desired by the combined Flight Attendant group.
More information on the AFA-CWA Merger Policy may be found in the Airline Merger section of www.unitedafa.org.