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Let’s Talk About IVF vs IVFMP

Date: January 22, 2021

Recently, we shared information about how the last IVFMP Letter of Agreement came into being .  This week we launched a survey asking for your input on one question:

“In the event United Airlines insists on another reduction in force for Flight Attendants and there is no additional federal relief to stop it, how should the Union respond?

  • The Union should strictly follow the provisions of Section 18 of the Flight Attendant Agreement.
  • The Union should negotiate with United management to achieve an involuntary furlough mitigation program (IVFMP) in addition to what is provided for in Section 18 of the Flight Attendant Agreement.”

First, we should clarify what we mean when we ask for your view about the Union negotiating an involuntary furlough mitigation program.  It does not necessarily mean we go back to the exact language of the IVFMP that just concluded. The prior IVFMP Letter of Agreement has been extinguished and is no longer in effect. What’s different in our current situation is that we have more time to get your view on the next steps the Union should be taking if faced with another reduction in force in the event the PSP is not extended.

The survey includes an area for you to provide comments and feedback, along with sharing with your Local Council Officers your ideas and thoughts.  The question on the survey asks in broad terms if we should negotiate with management – which means quite possibly a different outcome than last time.  While no solution is going to be deemed perfect by everyone, we do have an opportunity, should we pursue that path, to address concerns from the last program and to possibly improve upon them.

To keep future concepts in perspective, you will recall that last time, management made clear the program had to be cost-neutral – and remember the program needs to offer some level of benefit to the company as well.  That’s what a negotiation is about, achieving a compromise both parties can live with.

The other side of that coin is strictly following Section 18 of our Contract. It’s important to realistically look at that outcome before responding, to make the most informed choice.  Remember neither choice is “right” or “wrong,” and each path carries with it a consequence. 

As an example:

  • If United management were to announce a need to reduce our Flight Attendant population by 10,000, and if there were 1,000 Voluntary Furlough participants and 200 Furlough-Mitigation Partnerships, that would result in an involuntary furlough of 8,800 Flight Attendants or to the approximate seniority date during the month of November 2006.
  • Likewise, if United management were to announced a need to reduce our Flight Attendant population by 15,000, and there were 1,000 Voluntary Furlough participants and 200 Furlough-Mitigation Partnerships, absent an IVFMP, that would result in an involuntary furlough of 13,800 Flight Attendants, or to the approximate seniority date during the month of June 1997.

These are not actual numbers, and they’re not meant to scare anyone into a mindset, but it is the simple reality of what the result would actually be.  It’s a sobering consideration.

Remember, there is a consequence to each path:

  • An involuntary furlough results in thousands of Flight Attendants completely out of work, with short-term furlough pay and access to health, welfare benefits; and,
  • An IVFMP keeps people connected to the company providing access to health & welfare benefits and whatever other bargained priorities.  However, the program potentially raises concerns of potential or perceived seniority violations while having to choose between healthcare and furlough pay. 

The final considerations:  These are the largest reduction in force numbers we’ve ever been faced with resulting in an involuntary furlough occurring in tandem with a harsh economic reality. Compounding what would already be an incredibly difficult process to endure in normal times, for many, unemployment benefits are expiring soon.  In addition, the fact is that more traditional temporary or supplemental work such as bartending, restaurants and other “gig” work simply is unavailable now because of the pandemic. These furloughs are unlike anything we’ve ever faced or that have ever been contemplated under our Contract.

For many of us, the thought of so many junior flying partners out on the street is anathema. At the same time, giving in to what we perceive as unfair or a seniority violations is equally difficult to accept. All are valid considerations when we need to carefully consider our path forward.  In fact, these are the same issues the MEC struggled with last time, and the enormity of the consequences in terms of its impact on Members can be overwhelming, not only for those of us making these decisions but also for those who find themselves away from work.

It’s a lot to consider and can elicit very strong emotional reactions on either side of the issue.  As we’ve said before and undoubtedly will say again, there is no “good” choice if it comes down to a reduction in force again.  What we’re left with, unfortunately, is making the “best” of “bad” choices, all of which we wish we didn’t have to make. 

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