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Talks Break Down Between United and Flight Attendants

From Bloomberg Business News

Negotiations to bring the flight attendants union aboard the employee buyout at United Airlines have broken down, and no new talks are scheduled, both sides said Tuesday.

UAL Corp. and the Assn. of Flight Attendants broke off talks over disagreements about the value of concessions the union would make to participate in the employee ownership program, according to the union and the company.

According to Friday’s recorded telephone message for union members, United Airlines’ parent company is either “unwilling or unable to place reasonable value on our contract changes.”

UAL spokesman Tony Molinaro called the end of the talks a “recess.” He said the company hopes to reopen negotiations “at a later date.”

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Molinaro said the delay in reaching an agreement was a result of the complexity of the talks. He declined to characterize the extent of the disagreement.

In early July, employees represented by the Air Line Pilots Assn., the International Assn. of Machinists and a non-union group exchanged $4.9 billion in wage and work-rule concessions taken during almost a six-year period for a 55% stake in United, creating one of the nation’s largest employee-owned companies.

The company is seeking AFA concessions valued at $416 million for a 12% stake, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents filed before the buyout.

Employees participating in the buyout agreed to make concessions for five years and nine months. Flight attendant participation would have shortened that to five years.

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The union has opposed company plans to open foreign bases for flight attendants, a move it says would drain off U.S. jobs. The union also objected to company weight and height limits for flight attendants.

The two sides have moved closer to agreement on most issues other than the value of concessions, the union message said.

The AFA, United’s largest employee group, represents about 24%, or 18,000, of United’s 75,500 workers.


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