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Gobsmacked by 1, 3, 8 & 13 Month Special COLA Offerings

Date: August 28, 2020

Gobsmacked by 1, 3, 8 & 13 Month Special COLA Offerings

This evening, everyone was shocked when Inflight Services sent notice to Flight Attendants that Special COLAs in 1, 3, 8 and 13 month duration would be available starting with the October 2020 schedule month. Given this announcement follows on the heels of the involuntary furloughs, where short-term periods of voluntary furlough were not made available, we are utterly surprised by the announced duration.

In the days immediately preceding the company’s announced reduction in force of 15,100 Flight Attendants, the Union made specific recommendations  to management advocating for multiple duration voluntary furlough periods starting at three months upwards to 24 months.   Given our understanding of Flight Attendant interests and our experience with voluntary furlough, we recommended the company make different periods of voluntary furlough available because different people have different needs.  Ultimately, the recommendation we made that was intended to provide a mechanism for management to meet its desired reduction in force numbers while creating a variety of time off periods for Flight Attendants, was not accepted.   To say we’re disappointed in this most recent turn of events where shorter term periods of time off are now not available to everyone is an understatement.

We understand your fury at being told that the shortest duration voluntary furlough period would be eight months only to learn days after finalization of the furlough processing that shorter duration Special COLAs are now available, just not to you.  Utterly astonishing!

Given the current trend in the industry of reducing passenger demand while there is an increasing number of COVID-19 instances in the communities in which we live and work and on whom we rely for our livelihoods, we are not completely surprised by this reduction.  What is not fully understandable, however, is how those responsible for the decision-making for scheduling time away from work were unwilling to take the risk associated with shortened periods of voluntary furlough, periods of time that would assist them in meeting their manpower objectives as it appears they now will.  All of this is just another of those things that legitimately raise questions.  Is management being truly as “transparent” as they should be?  Are they really willing to look at the problems facing our industry and take the necessary risks to manage and balance their need for people to take time away from work with the needs of the employee?  Or are they caught in a paradigm that prevents them from looking at other viable alternatives until forced to do so?  Do we have reason to be concerned about our future?  More importantly, are these decisions being made deliberately to cause front line workers, the very people who are responsible to bring the customer back, to be angry and resentful?

All of us share our concerns about the future of our company.  We even understand the lack of predictability brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  We clearly even “get” why the company needs us to take unpaid time away from our jobs as part of their ongoing effort to continue to manage the cash burn reduction that appears to have now become the elusive, measure of success.  Let there be no mistake about this – we are all doing our part.   At some point, however, people lose their patience and with it, any sense of the need for collaboration.

All of us are frustrated by the fact that as we try to do our part to make a contribution to the underlying success of the company, our efforts appear to be met with resistance.  We all have a need to care for our families while, at the same time, we have a desire to contribute positively to United’s bottom line by taking time away.  That these efforts appear to be thwarted by those who should be facilitating this scheduling is not only aggravating and frustrating, it almost appears to be deliberate.

It's clear that Crew Planning had more flexibility in scheduling time off options for Flight Attendants than they were willing to make available.  What is most damaging is the lack of trust and confidence in the messaging from those charged with responsibility for these business functions.  As in all things in life, people can forgive mistakes to a certain extent.  However, once people lose confidence in the decisions of those responsible to make them, it’s very difficult to build back that trust and confidence.   

Flight Attendants need to hear from senior leadership of the company about how management will address the inequities created by this series of recent developments.  Management must create a balance in making these opportunities available for all, not just a limited few and only when it suits management.  Ultimately, our collective future depends on it.


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