WASHINGTON – AirTran flight attendants, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), filed for mediation yesterday with the National Mediation Board (NMB) after negotiations with the company broke down. Under the NMB’s guidelines, either the union or management may request mediation if they believe they have reached an impasse in negotiations.
Southwest Airlines recently announced its intention to acquire AirTran. Although the ownership of AirTran is about to change, this does not negate the carrier’s obligation to negotiate with its flight attendants in good faith.
“It is an interesting marriage,” said Alison Head, AFA-CWA AirTran President. “I was surprised by all the characterizations of AirTran as ’employee-centric’ because we have certainly not witnessed that. For over three years, AFA-CWA has tried to work with management on negotiating a contract that adequately reflects the work and dedication we continue to provide to this airline.”
Following the announcement of the acquisition by Southwest, AirTran management approached AFA-CWA requesting an abbreviated list of the flight attendants’ greatest concerns in order to expedite negotiations. When presented with the union’s “short list” proposal, the company responded with a counterproposal consisting mostly of existing contract language and minimal pay increases. In addition, they failed to address the most basic work, duty and rest provisions.
“Management’s failure to effectively manage resources and respect the quality-of-life issues are at the heart of our contract demands,” stated Head. “Just last Friday, Mr. Fornaro asserted that he ‘would like to enter into the relationship with Southwest with everything buttoned up.’ Obviously, the company is not committed to getting an agreement with its flight attendants. AirTran flight attendants want a contract and will not sit idly by watching management drag this process on any longer. The flight attendants’ contribution to the success of this airline cannot be ignored.”