TWU labor groups split on AMR contract offers

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on May 15, 2012 at 5:50 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 15 at 10:30 PM

FORT WORTH — AMR Corporation's biggest labor groups are split over the airline company's "last and best" contract offer.

Store clerks and maintenance workers were the only two groups out of seven to turn down that offer. Now, they'll head to a New York bankruptcy court to fight for their jobs.

Almost 13,000 mechanics and clerks work system-wide at American Airlines. It means they'll take their chances in bankruptcy court, where American is asking the judge to scrap their existing contracts.

It also means these labor groups have nothing to replace what they rejected.

But the mechanics and clerks say under American's "last best offer," they have little to lose.

The Transport Workers Union represents American mechanics and store clerks at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and at the carrier's Fort Worth Alliance maintenance base.

Mike Bush of TWU Local 565, representing the clerks, said AMR's offer didn't provide much security for his members. "We knew that a six-year deal that was projected by the company could turn into a 10-year deal, so we were willing to take our chances."

American spokesman Bruce Hicks praised the five TWU worker groups that accepted contracts and now exit the bankruptcy process. Hicks pledged that the airline will keep working with the other labor groups.

"Our hope continues to be to reach consensual agreements with all of our unions," he said.

Accepting the offer would have meant some 2,000 fewer job cuts for mechanics.

But Gary Peterson of TWU Local 565, representing mechanics, says the union didn't view American's offer as firm. "This agreement did not provide any job protection, and American would have the ability, over time, to outsource those jobs as well," he said.

The union also didn't like higher medical costs, or that member pay would still be less than other airlines like Southwest.

But job security is paramount, Peterson said. "They're not new hires — they're people who have been there 20, 30, 40 years," he said. "We're talking about whether they are going to have jobs into the future."

The mechanics and clerks will make their final pitch to the bankruptcy judge, where Hicks said American is seeking a deal less costly that what has now been rejected.

"This is a difficult process; there's nothing easy about this for anybody," he said.

None of these contract deals take effect until the judge rules on them. American is hoping for a ruling by June 6.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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