Some good news for a change on the labor front:
United and Continental airlines are on course to wrap up a new contract with their pilot unions by fall, a critical step if their megamerger is to deliver the $1.2 billion boost leaders of the carriers promised Wall Street.
While pilot talks progress, flight attendants and other worker groups likely face a long, arduous path to new contracts, which could undermine labor peace at the new carrier, sources warned…
Even the seniority lists might be resolved without too much bloodshed.
Pilot leaders are also closer to resolving another potentially explosive labor issue: seniority. They have hammered out an agreement detailing the steps they and an arbitrator would take to integrate seniority lists within 100 days after a joint collective bargaining agreement is reached, said Capt. Jay Pierce, who leads Continental’s pilots union.
But let’s not uncork the champagne yet.
But accomplishing such fast-track talks won’t be easy, Pierce conceded, given the pilots’ and management’s sharply different takes on outsourcing flying to subcontractors.
United relies on regional carriers to a greater extent than most of its peers, while Continental’s pilots’ contract tightly restricts outsourcing.
This is a big issue. UA has increasingly relied on Express carriers the last few years and this is an extremely contentious issue among the mainline UA pilots I have discussed this with.
If the UA/CO pilots and CO management are against the proliferation of contracting out routes to regional routes, we may see a return to mainline on certain routes. We also might see a reduction in adding new routes or even an elimination of services to certain cities that cannot support mainline service.
The carriers have created nearly 30 working groups to start planning how to combine key company functions, from flight operations to accounting, United CEO Glenn Tilton told reporters Thursday. To help guide them through the process, the carriers have hired consulting firm Bain & Co., which also advised Delta Air Lines in its 2008 acquisition of Northwest Airlines.
At least in terms of pilot contracts and support, DL/NW had a relatively smooth merger. US Airways and America West are still struggling. UA/CO would be wise to learn from the mistakes of both mergers and work with unions to shore up as much support as the budgetary constraints of the carriers will support.