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United Airlines Proposes to Hurt Lowest Paid Employees the Most With Demand for Higher Cuts

Date: February 14, 2003

CHICAGO -- United Airlines Flight Attendants, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO, confirmed today that airline management has set a new, higher target for annual labor cost cuts that is overreaching and inequitable.

On Feb. 12, 2003 airline management unleashed an attack on Flight Attendants. The company is now demanding $2.56 billion in annual cuts from its unions versus the previously announced annual savings target of $2.4 billion.

In addition, management has increased its total target for annual flight attendant contract cuts by 75 percent over the allocation provided to the unions in August 2002 ($160 million increase) – upping the total flight attendant cuts to $314 million annually. This management proposal places the entire burden for the increased cuts on the backs of the lowest paid employees at United, the Flight Attendants.

If the Flight Attendants’ percentage share of the total labor cuts package had not changed from the pre-bankruptcy allocation, the new total would be $179 million.

What the Union found particularly troubling is that this new proposal takes more from its lowest paid workers while reducing the cuts to highly compensated salary and management employees by 35 percent.

"AFA is committed to ensuring that United Airlines successfully reorganizes, but our participation must be fair; the allocation announced yesterday is not," said AFA United Master Executive Council President Greg Davidowitch.

United has offered no explanation for its new, inflated numbers in the allocation of concessions among the various employee groups.

On top of significantly reducing pay, requiring Flight Attendants to pay more out of pocket for health insurance, and forcing each flight attendant to contribute more of her or his own pay towards a retirement plan, the concessions management is seeking would also eliminate the jobs of thousands of Flight Attendants at United.

United Flight Attendants have already accepted a temporary nine percent cut in wages. In order to assess what United actually needs going forward management has to provide AFA with certain essential information – a business plan, the total amount of concessions it seeks from all employees, and AFA’s allocation of that amount.

On Feb. 12, United finally provided AFA with the total concessions and our allocation. Sixty days into this bankruptcy United has still not shown AFA a business plan or an explanation of the necessity and fairness of the proposed cuts. In addition to the $314 million in annual flight attendant concessions that management now says are required for reorganization, United wants to eliminate about 30 percent of the "mainline" flying and transfer it to a separate lower cost subsidiary.

"What we've been given to date is not a business plan, it is a marketing presentation, and it's going over like a ton of bricks with the employees who make up United Airlines," said Davidowitch. "We are a service industry and we are an industry of people. Obliterating the front line workers in our company is bad business.

"AFA has been and will remain prepared to do all that is needed to aid in the recovery of our airline. We will not, however, blindly follow a strategy that is neither viable nor necessary. AFA will prepare and present United with a proposal that contains the amount of concessions consistent with a business plan that is a realistic assessment of what it will actually take for United to reorganize successfully. "

More than 50,000 Flight Attendants, including the 24,000 Flight Attendants at United, join together to form AFA, the world’s largest Flight Attendant Union. Visit us at www.unitedafa.org.

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