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United Airlines Flight Attendants Refuse to Discuss “Shared Sacrifices”

Date: April 26, 2002

CHICAGO -- The flight attendants at United Airlines, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO, told United CEO Jack Creighton in a meeting Thursday at United’s headquarters in Chicago, that they will not participate in talks about possible concessions, and reiterated flight attendant concerns and suggestions on how to best restore the airline to fiscal health.

“We take exception to the company’s characterization that our costs are the reason for United’s financial woes,” said AFA United Master Executive Council President Linda Farrow. “In fact, our contract ensures that United’s flight attendant costs are similar to the average flight attendant costs of United’s major competitors. Nothing could be more competitive than that.”

The current flight attendant contract provides for a yearly review of flight attendant costs. The objective of the yearly “Interest Arbitration” is to ensure that United’s flight attendant costs stay competitive with the AVERAGE of the other leading carriers. In 2001, the first year of the comparison, United’s flight attendant cost, as determined by an independent arbitrator, was above the average of United’s key competition. Thus, United flight attendants did not get a wage increase in 2001. The wage arbitration process for 2002 will conclude in the coming weeks. This process will be conducted each year until 2006, when the contract becomes amendable.

The flight attendants are the only work group at United with this type of wage arbitration built into its contract. The arbitration was part of a now abandoned corporate strategy called “Vision 2000.” United management has since negotiated a number of new contracts with other work groups that provide industry-leading compensation.

“This new standard United is applying in its contract negotiations has created inequality in flight attendant pay when compared to other work groups at the airline,” said AFA United MEC President-Elect Greg Davidowitch. “Negotiating concessions would mean we accept that inequality as fair, and we do not.”

While United’s financial difficulties are clear, focusing on labor costs as the problem fails to address the overriding issue of lack of revenue. In other recent meetings about the financial position of the carrier, the flight attendants have urged management to focus on its core business and produce a solid business plan that incorporates a number of cost-cutting measures on the management side that could save the airline millions, instead of reaching into the flight attendants’ pockets.

“Flight attendants will continue to participate in the recovery of United Airlines by doing what we do best – ensuring the safety and well-being of the passengers entrusted to our care, and ensuring that United’s passengers are the best treated in the airline industry,” said Davidowitch.

During the term of the current contract, the flight attendants are under no obligation to open the contract for negotiations of any kind.

More than 50,000 flight attendants, including the 26,000 flight attendants at United, join together to form AFA, the world’s largest flight attendant union. Visit us at www.afanet.org.

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