Home > News > E-Lines: January 15, 2021

E-Lines: January 15, 2021

Date: January 15, 2021

Let’s Talk about our Contract

Section 18 of our Contract addresses Reduction in Personnel.  You may not know the section of the Contract, but by now you’re more familiar than you’d like to be with the process.  As a quick review, prior to the company implementing any involuntary furlough, they must first offer and award in system seniority order a number of furlough mitigation programs that start with Voluntary Furlough (VF).  The negotiated provisions the come with a Voluntary Furlough can be found on page 171 of the printed Contract.  These provisions are set forth to offer protections to those who volunteer and include who is eligible, seniority protection, health, wellness and travel benefits, early recall protections, base protections, etc. 

Before implementing an involuntary furlough, a requirement for Furlough Mitigation Partnerships (FMP) to be awarded was negotiated as a mandatory part of the process in Section 16.A.2.c. (pg 158).  In the event these voluntary programs do not provide the company with the reduction in personnel they have determined to be necessary, involuntary furlough will result.

In advance of the involuntary furlough that took place last October, in response to the circumstances brought about by the worldwide pandemic, we simultaneously worked together in extraordinary ways to persuade members of the United States Congress to extend the CARES Act. 

AFA worked other avenues in an effort to find ways to reduce the number of Flight Attendants affected by an impending involuntary furlough.   Saving jobs while keeping people connected to their company, benefits and base became a priority.  With the unanimous approval of the United Master Executive Council, the Involuntary Furlough Mitigation Program (IVFMP) resulted. 

This program introduced an additional, extra-Contractual step designed for the exclusive purpose of further mitigating the number of people who would end up without a job and health & wellness benefits, for themselves and their families, in response to an ever-worsening series of pandemic events.  The program was never negotiated, nor was it intended to, introduce an additional scheduling option.

It is important to point out, the provisions of the IVFMP Letter of Agreement did not supersede the negotiated provisions of the Contract. They supplemented the negotiated voluntary processes in order to reduce involuntary furlough when it became clear to the Union leadership that something more had to be done to protect as many of our Members as possible during a pandemic.

And, as difficult as it may be for all of us to accept, we may collectively find ourselves faced with a similar situation in the near future should additional payroll support from the U.S. Congress not materialize.  Looking back and understanding history provides valuable perspective on the choices available during the worsening pandemic.  Consider:

  1.  The company insisted any LOA had to be “cost-neutral” given it was being negotiated for implementation only if the CARES Act was not extended and as an alternative to the only remaining option at that time; involuntary furlough.  Involuntary furlough has costs built in to protect employees in terms of furlough pay and benefits for a limited time, those costs are eliminated in a short period of time.
  2. As is the case in bargaining, there is a cost associated with any “options” explored during the process and it becomes a matter of comparing these different costs when the resulting program requires cost neutrality in an environment of limited resources.
  3. There is a cost associated with each of the furlough mitigation options in the Contract and those priorities were established at the time they were negotiated into the book.  Different costs to the company, per Flight Attendant, apply for:

    • Voluntary Furlough
    • Furlough Mitigation Partnerships
    • Involuntary Furlough
  4.  In order to accomplish the cost-neutrality established by management as a condition of bargaining, a sufficient number of voluntary furlough awards providing the company with extended time off the payroll, were necessary as part of the negotiated furlough mitigation program in the book.  The IVFMP was not negotiated as a replacement or “alternative” to Voluntary Furlough.  It was negotiated as an additional program, available only to those subject to involuntary furlough.  In point of fact, without a voluntary furlough program, the IVFMP would not have been achieved.
  5. The Union, in discussion with management right up until the very last-minute, continued to explore options, in an ongoing effort to improve any agreement terms and to sweep into any resulting program as many members as possible.

The leadership of the Union has heard, loud and clear, and understands the frustration that resulted from the timing of the announcement of the IVFMP, as well as from the confusion about the new program which was negotiated during a very condensed time period. 

The unanimous decision by the United Master Executive Council to accept the terms of the IVFMP LOA was made after much deliberation.  Entering into this kind of agreement was not taken lightly and was one choice among a number of bad options available, all resulting from a world-wide pandemic that was out of anyone’s control.

The initial reduction in force notice advised an incredulous 15,100 of our flying partners that were subject to involuntary furlough. Through the voluntary separation programs offered by management (VSP), as well as the closure of three of our international bases, Voluntary Furlough and the Furlough Mitigation Partnerships, that number was reduced.  Yet 12,000 of us still faced the prospect of being without a job and health care during a pandemic.  Given that reality, the IVFMP was the result.  It was the mechanism through which we ultimately kept 6,500 Flight Attendants connected to their company, benefits and base.

It cannot go unnoticed that those who participated in the IVFMP, agreed to forego their Contractual involuntary furlough pay of several months in exchange for access to their health & wellness benefits.  In combination with the number of Flight Attendants “above the line” taking time away from their job through voluntary furlough, those who left the job permanently through the VSP and the international base closures and those who were subject to involuntary furlough agreeing to participate in the IVFMP, the company ultimately achieved the desired cost neutrality necessary to keep 6,500 with benefits.

So, you might ask legitimately, if the IVFMP was such a good idea, why isn’t it already part of the Contract?  The answer to that question, from a collective bargaining perspective, is that it is not a good long-term solution.  As with applying a tourniquet to a leg that has suffered massive injury, you can’t keep the tourniquet on forever.  Similarly, while the IVFMP was meant to arrest the free-fall of 12,000+ Flight Attendants into unemployment and a loss of benefits for, what was, an unknown period of time, it simply can’t be seen as a viable long-term solution.

Recognizing the IVFMP was a program that is not part of our Contract for a reason, and identifying that it’s not a good long-term solution, it’s a fair to ask why we would do it and if we should consider it again if faced with another reduction in force of significant magnitude.

When we consider that a reduction in force of any size starts affecting those of us who have been here for more than two decades, we must also acknowledge, we have perspective.  Many of us have been through furloughs in the past and over the course of our careers.  And, while we’ve “done our time,” we have the perspective that no accommodations similar to these have been made in the past.   For some of us, our furlough periods came during a period of time in a changing industry where they lasted in excess of three years.  So, you may ask, what makes this reduction in force different?  Consider:

  1.  Never in our history have we been faced with a reduction in force of this magnitude.
  2. We remain in the midst of an arguably worsening pandemic, the likes of which not having healthcare make an enormous difference.
  3. There are very few “other jobs” to find because of the pandemic to bridge the gap between IVF and return to work.  Bars, restaurants and other avenues of short-term or supplemental employment are all but absent right now, which can leave a dependence on expiring unemployment like nothing any of us has ever experienced.

The lessons learned up until this point in history are important ones.  It is within this context, we must consider our collective future.  If United announces another reduction in force, which is likely, and if those numbers are again staggeringly high, we should expect to be faced with having to make similar choices.

Despite our increasingly optimistic view of the future with the introduction of the vaccines, we cannot delude ourselves into thinking that everything is better. We are only at the start of the recovery process. 

At the same time, we should be clear.  Within the context of our Union, and in caring for each other, the involuntary furlough of one Flight Attendant is one too many.  Our obligation as a Union is to work together to reduce and eliminate the need for involuntary furlough in any way we can.  

Having the benefit of hindsight, we must also look at what we collectively accomplished:

  •  In the absence of the IVFMP more than 12,000 Flight Attendants would have been placed on IVF.
  • Through the IVFMP, 6,500 Flight Attendants remained connected to their company, benefits and base with a limited income potential.

We can discuss options, provide input, and voice concerns. That’s the process.  We can even realistically acknowledge the legitimate differences in opinion among our almost 24,000 flying partners will make it difficult, if not impossible, to get everyone on the same page.  At the end of the day, we have a decision to make.  Working together through our democratic process and benefiting from our collective wisdom of past events, we will make a decision that leads to the best possible outcome.

Unruly Passenger Strategy

On Wednesday, the FAA Administrator Steve Dickson today signed an order directing a stricter legal enforcement policy against unruly airline passengers in the wake of recent, troubling incidents.

The FAA has seen a disturbing increase in incidents where airline passengers have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior. These incidents have stemmed both from passengers’ refusals to wear masks and from recent violence at the U.S. Capitol.

“Flying is the safest mode of transportation and I signed this order to keep it that way,” Administrator Dickson said.

As you may have learned in the news, there are disturbing increases in altercations taking place onboard aircraft this week.  As we draw closer to Inauguration Day, tensions continue to run high and we need to be aware and proactive. 

One common theme we keep hearing about is a challenge to “the rules.”  Passengers on other airlines have been captured on video saying things like “so we have to follow all of your rules?”  Without question, the answer is quite simply: yes, you do. 

Earlier this week we addressed this increase with a reaffirmation of the actions we can take to work together to keep our crew, passengers and aircraft safe.  One addition we can make to that solid foundation is to work together as a crew to begin mask enforcement early and on the ground, when we have the most resources and support.

As United has directed us, we should follow their procedures when requesting passengers to be mask compliant and use their de-escalating techniques. Each of us from the greeter to the purser position, to the crew assigned to monitor the cabin, has an opportunity to begin with the basic step of mask compliance.  This sets the tone right from the beginning that all of us are on the same page as it pertains to safety and an adherence to the rules.  Passengers may be more likely to think they have some “wiggle room” if we see a mask below the nose and don’t ask them to wear the mask properly and to “cover up”.

Following the procedures, that all of us already do, also allows us to spot any potential conflict or challenge to “the rules” while still on the ground.  Ideally this is the best place to address the issue because you can get the pilots and ground personnel involved and address or eliminate the problem immediately.

Be vigilant.  Be confident in your ability.  Be safe, not only this week, but always.

Returning Furlough Flight Attendant CQ/RQ Options

On Tuesday, we talked about those who are currently on furlough and who will elect to transition  to Special COLA (SPCOLA) who, as a result, do not wish to attend CQ/RQ training.  We are happy to report, through AFA’s ongoing advocacy and persistence, things have changed.  United announced yesterday that “in this ever-changing environment,” options have been modified. Our Union heard from many of you, loud and clear that you wanted other options and we strongly advocated to the company for many of the changes sought.  We were successful in achieving these changes.  What you need to know is:

Flight Attendants that are returning from Furlough and were awarded a SPCOLA for February and March:

  1. You will be contacted by the FAST team to be advised of training.
  2. If you wish to attend, go ahead and accept the training assignment.
  3. If, on the other hand, you have concerns about attending training, you may postpone attendance at training, and that will be confirmed with an email. There will be no discipline points associated with this postponement.

Those taking Special COLAs in February and March will not receive pay under the PSP.

It’s important to understand that if you do postpone training, you will defer pay protection (including through the PSP) until you return to active status for up to 45 days after you return to flight duty to provide management with the ability to get you into a training class.  If training is not available, effective of the 46th day, you will be protected from the loss of pay on a pro-rate basis, by the 71-hour minimum in Section 4.C.2. of our Contract.

Only after being scheduled for RQ will Flight Attendants have access to CBTs in Takeoff Learning.

February Reserve Bid Month Timeline

If awarded or assigned a Reserve schedule for the February bid month, there are various scheduling deadlines and processes that occur during the period between bid awards and through the first week of the new month. While some of these events occur on the same calendar days each month, there are some that are based on when the new Flight Attendant bid month begins and which may vary from month to month. Review the following calendar and list format.

Delayed Return of JFK to LAX/SFO Service

United Network Planning announced there would be a delay in our return to service in the JFK to SFO and LAX markets.  While originally slated to start on February 1, the announcement indicated service would be delayed until February 28 citing new COVID-19 restrictions and customer demand.

While in the past these segments were limited to designated p.s.™ IDs that were assigned at JFK, this flying is not being isolated and is included in pairings around the system.  Affected bases include DEN, IAD, IAH, LAX, ORD, & SFO

All of the flight segments between LAX – JFK and SFO - JFK will be cancelled.  Crew resources has sent a CCS message to Flight Attendants advising of the delayed start of service and the impact of these cancellations on the flying for which we are currently bidding. The company will begin to action the pairings containing cancelled segments as of January 22, 2021 following the award of the VRL schedules.

Martin Luther King Jr Day January 18

Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. He is perhaps best remembered for advancing civil rights through non-violence and peaceful civil disobedience.  He drew on Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatama Ghandi. 

Our remembrance of Dr. King this year can only be viewed through our experience of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests that occurred across the nation this past summer.  The lessons taught back in the 1960’s are still being learned today, as many of us have personally experienced for ourselves.

The overwhelming majority of the BLM protesters were peaceful and carried a message of which Dr. King would likely be proud.  As with the protests in his day, there were dissenters who sought to disrupt peaceful demonstrations with the introduction of violence. 

As tensions regarding race and equality in the U.S. continue to increase, we encourage everyone to remember Dr. King’s words, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

There are a number of online-events scheduled to honor Dr. King’s legacy, in lieu of in person events this year, including a number by well-known jazz musicians, and we encourage you to find a meaningful way to honor his legacy.  The following are just a few links to online tributes to Dr. King Jr, and hope you enjoy them, leaving you with: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that," "hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."

4th Infantry Division Soldiers honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

The Story of Martin Luther King Jr. by Kid President

I Have a Dream speech by Martin Luther King .Jr HD (subtitled)

Reminder and Quick Links

January 17 – Bidding for February Schedule Closes 0800 HDT
January 29 – First Trimester CQ CBT Due
January 30 – First day of the February Bid Month

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