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Staffing Reductions and the Avoidance of Scope Violations

Date: December 18, 2018

MEC Communications Committee

On December 13th, 2018 United Flight Attendants stood together around the globe to protest the proposed reduced staffing onboard our aircraft as United management succumbed to the pressure of Wall Street to match the reduced staffing levels at American and Delta.  The strength of AFA comes from each one of our Members standing together. AFA has been strongly against the staffing changes since its original proposal and will continue to advocate against them. 

The planned reduction in staffing leaves no room for error when we are called upon to respond to the unexpected with the stretched resources on the aircraft. Flight Attendants must continue with a unified front, protecting our position against these cuts and guarding against any threat to our Scope provisions. 

United management is mistakenly convinced that flights can operate efficiently with the same reduced staffing as our competitors. In addition to the February 1, 2019 planned cuts, management continues to send out many flights staffed with only the FAA minimum crew while, at the same time, advocating for non-crew working crew members or other employees to “assist” during the boarding process. To be clear, even a task as small as closing overhead bins is a direct violation of the Scope provisions of our JCBA. If it is efficient for a United Crew to fly at minimum or reduced staffing, then this is exactly the same staffing we should be using for boarding. Assigning additional crew on the ground to then short staff the same flight in the air is unacceptable. 

Boarding responsibilities should only be performed by a working Crew Member assigned to the flight. This is contractual. By allowing another workgroups to perform the work historical performed by Flight Attendant we weaken our Contractual protections. Flight Attendants know their rights under the contract and we will not allow our jobs to be marginalized for profits. 

Closing the overhead bins, confirming luggage is stowed and making passenger announcements during boarding are all duties that traditionally define our work. When supervisors or other employees perform this undisputed Flight Attendant work, it is a violation of our Contract.  Flight Attendants are to calmly advise anyone, other than working Flight Attendants, attempting to perform these duties that they are in violation of our Contract and ask them to stop. Reassure these individuals that we are well aware of the responsibilities that need to be accomplished and that this work will be completed before the door of the aircraft is closed, consistent with the FARs.

We ask that you immediately report any violation of our scope to your Local Council, not because this is about getting anyone in trouble, but rather this is about ensuring any misunderstanding is promptly corrected.

It is equally important for Flight Attendants not to perform work that is the responsibility of other work groups: customer service, ramp, mechanics or pilots, in violation of their contractual job scope. This needs to be done for two reasons. First, to ensure that the specialized work of these groups, for which we are not trained, is completely properly. Further, we don’t want to hamper United's ability to accurately determine front-line staffing for these essential positions. 

Scope protects our jobs and ensures the company assigns our work to Flight Attendants for the safety and security of all the flights we operate. As Flight Attendants, we have a responsibility to each other, to the passengers in our care and, above all else, the safe operation of our airline. Each of us individually enforcing our Contract is always important work. Together we can enforce our Contract, protect our jobs and our future.

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