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US Airways Forced to Allow Voluntary Furloughs After Flight Attendants File Lawsuit

Date: January 15, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC –US Airways flight attendants, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO, won a major victory yesterday after an arbitrator ruled that the airline had improperly furloughed 552 flight attendants. 
 
"With 552 jobs and the integrity of our contract on the line, this is an enormous victory for our flight attendants,” said AFA US Airways Master Executive Council President Perry Hayes. “US Airways treatment of our flight attendants during this furlough is just another example of management’s blatant disregard for our contract and our rights. Since the arrival of CEO Dave Siegel and CFO Neil Cohen, management has focused more on harassing employees rather than getting this airline back on track."
 
In December, US Airways management announced that it was involuntarily furloughing 552 flight attendants. According to the collective bargaining agreement between AFA and US Airways, before flight attendants are involuntarily furloughed, the airline must first offer a voluntary furlough. The flight attendants filed a lawsuit on Jan. 8 to stop the illegal process. The next day, airline management agreed to expedited arbitration to resolve the issue before the furloughs became effective on Jan. 15.
 
US Airways management has made a public spectacle of asking for employee cooperation in turning the airline around. At the same time, management has set off this clash over furloughs, as well as a number of other disputes over issues related to the flight attendant reserve system, sick leave, medical benefits, and cuts in the amount of time flight attendants are credited for working. 
 
The groundwork for yesterday’s victory was laid last summer when management attempted to bypass the voluntary process but was ultimately forced to follow the contract after an arbitrator ruled in favor of the flight attendants in an expedited process. 
 
US Airways must now determine how it will comply with the arbitrator’s ruling and the flight attendant contract. AFA believes that the airline should allow at least 15 days for flight attendants to bid for the voluntary furloughs. If not enough flight attendants apply for a voluntary furlough, then the remaining furloughs will be made through the involuntary process.
 
By adhering to the contract and conducting a voluntary furlough, workers with more seniority can elect to take a pre-determined amount of time off, in order to prevent the workers at the bottom of the seniority list from being put out on the street without a choice.
 
More than 45,000 flight attendants, including the 5,200 flight attendants at US Airways, join together to form AFA, the world’s largest flight attendant union. AFA is part of the 700,000 member strong Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO.

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