Questions Regarding Involuntary Furlough Mitigation Program (IVFMP)
August 20, 2020
Release of the details on the Involuntary Furlough Mitigation Program (IVFMP) and the subsequent mischaracterization of the how the program was arrived at, the benefits of the program and who the program is intended to benefit have been widely distributed. A webpage dedicated to housing the details of the IVFMP can be accessed from the United MEC website by selecting the blue IVFMP box on the home page of unitedafa.org.
And while this information has been available, there continues to be a number of rumors and mischaracterization about the Letter of Agreement. Some of the information being distributed is so categorically untrue, we need to take a few minutes to try to set the record straight.
As we all know, the company announced the need for an historical, unprecedented reduction in force of more that 15,000 of our Members on July 8, 2020. On that same day, MEC President Ken Diaz wrote to the Membership to advise all of us of these developments and to address the resultant shock, surprise and uncertainty brought about by this announcement. Since that date, the MEC Officers have be advocating with United management to find alternatives to separating people from their jobs and benefits during what is arguably one of the worst worldwide pandemics. We have continually pressed management about the need to act to keep all of our Members connected to their health care benefits during the pandemic.
During the course of the first week of August, 82 of the 100 U.S. Senators indicated their support for the CARES Act Payroll Support Program (PSP). The Act is intended to provide funding to keep people working and connected to their benefits and their jobs. Being aware of these positive benefits, we attempted to leverage the developments during the week to accomplish keeping all of our Members connected to their benefits.
Discussions with management continued and we gained some very positive momentum during the days immediately preceding Sunday, August 9, 2020. In anticipation of having something to share with the United MEC, on Saturday, August 8, 2020, Ken directed that a Special Meeting via MEC Conference Call be scheduled for Sunday afternoon, August 9, 2020 at 4:00PM CT consistent with the requirements of the UAL MEC Policy Manual. All members of the UAL MEC were advised of the call and provided information to participate. The sole item on the Agenda for the meeting was a Furlough Mitigation Discussion intended to provide preliminary details of the ongoing discussions.
Having spent the three days immediately preceding this meeting on Sunday with United management hammering out the details of an agreement that accomplished keeping more than 6,000 of our Members connected to their benefits and their jobs, the MEC Officers understood it was important that we share those details with the leadership of the Union.
On Sunday, during a more than three (3) hour conference call, the United MEC was provided details of the program, what we colllectively accomplished in being able to keep more than 6,000 Members connected to their benefits as well as the information on the company’s financial models that determined the need to limit the number of participants and how that limit was ultimately determined through their models. Your MEC Officers worked tirelessly through the weekend to persuade United management to consider other alternatives in an ongoing effort to include everyone in the program and further mitigate the IVF. However, given the company’s financial limitations brought about by the onset of the pandemic as well as the need to reduce the daily cash burn in order to survive the pandemic, management maintained their position that the solution arrived at was the limit for cost purposes.
After a fulsome discussion where details were provided to the United MEC, a vote of the United MEC was taken and the Letter of Agreement was unanimously adopted because the Letter of Agreement accomplished protections for more than 6,000 of our Members. It must be clearly understood, in the absence of the Letter of Agreement, almost 12,000 Flight Attendants will be placed on involuntary furlough status for an indefinite period of time without affordable health care after three months.
Having completed the business listed on the Agenda, the MEC prepared to adjourn the Conference call. One of the Members of the United MEC made a motion to immediately release the details of the IVFMP to the Membership. In response, Ken explained that in the absence of a signed agreement, there was no agreement. Ken pointed out that he was not in a position to “make a deal” with United management in the absence of direction from the UAL MEC and that this call was providing him with the direction he needed to conclude discussions during the following week. Ken pointed out that a pre-mature release of the information, without first securing the agreement of management, would likely put the deal, as well as the well-being of the Membership, in jeopardy. Another vote on this motion was taken and it was ultimately defeated with a 3 for/1 abstention/12 against vote to immediately release details of the program to the Membership.
The Letter of Agreement was finalized during the week and ultimately executed on Thursday, August 13, 2020. AFA and the company set to work putting together FAQ information on the program with preliminary details to be released on Friday, August 14, 2020. At the same time, Ken, Jeff and Greg Jacobs were at company offices to oversee the contractual Voluntary Furlough award.
There are a few things that need to be clear about the program. First, the program is an involuntary furlough mitigation program and applies only to those individuals who would be subject to involuntary furlough. This was not a program that was negotiated to offer additional options to the Membership at large or, as stated by the company, to create other opportunities for people who are already “safe” because one of the pre-conditions of these discussions was that any program arrived at would need to be cost neutral; that is, creating no additional new cost(s) to the company because of the objective to reduce the daily cash burn.
The program recognizes the differing priorities of our Membership and created the opportunity for those Flight Attendants senior to the most junior 5,500 Members to participate in the IVFMP program. It was understood that the absence of an election would result in the involuntary furlough of the individual Flight Attendant. This was important because individual Flight Attendants were being provided the option to decide to stay connected with their benefits, in lieu of receiving the contractual involuntary furlough payments. In the absence of such an election, she/he will be placed on involuntary furlough status consistent with the terms of the Contract.
In the end, the leadership of AFA determined the benefits of the agreement that was ultimately reached with United management provided the greatest number of our Members with something they would not otherwise have had – access to health care during a national health crisis brought about by a world-wide pandemic. At the same time, additional schedule flexibility that did not result in additional costs to management, were developed and will be made available to the general membership at each domicile on the condition that the CARES Act Payroll Support Program is not extended. In the event the Payroll CARES Act is extended, all of these voluntary programs will not be enacted, voluntary furloughs will be cancelled and the company will manage any overage of personnel with the financial resources made available from the CARES Act.
We understand many of you have questions and we are working to ensure answers to these questions are made available as quickly as possible. In the meantime, Flight Attendants are encouraged to read through all of the information available on www.unitedafa.org, including the full Executed Letter of Agreement.
We will continue to work to get information out by all means possible but we must ensure that the answers are accurate and do not mislead anyone. We encourage you to join the upcoming Townhall Meeting where AFA and management will jointly address the Membership to provide additional detail on this Involuntary Furlough Mitigation Program.