American Airlines, in a contract dispute with their mechanics that has lasted years, has decided not only to sue mechanics for a work slowdown but is seeking penalties in a judgment from the courts. But that’s not helping contract negotiations at all.
Mechanics Contract Remains Unresolved
Surprising absolutely no one, the mechanics and American Airlines management have yet to reach a resolution in negotiations that have spanned several years. American maintains that raises given outside of their contract several years ago should have more or less “counted” as a raise for this round of negotiation.
American Airlines management has proposed not replacing jobs lost through normal attrition though not necessarily moving jobs away from the States. The labor unions believe that as many as 5,000 jobs may be outsourced off-shore as a result of American’s proposal. Mechanics also want a “best-in-class” contract that beats Delta’s current contract.
American Won a Toothless Judgement
I called the judgment American won against Mechanics toothless. The reason I find the verdict to be toothless is that it demands mechanics that are out of contract already to work overtime which is largely unenforceable and what’s more, how does any judge or jury rule which safety issues should require further work and which should not. The fact that mechanics may now notice more safety concerns that need to be addressed by maintenance does not, in fact, change the existence of those issues.
American Airlines Management Seeks Damages from Judgement
The judgment won by American Airlines could result in damages due to the carrier in the millions of dollars if mechanics failed to comply. The numbers show that the mechanical issues remained elevated the week of June 7-13 and delays were more prevalent than normal (58% late departures), though the bar wasn’t set very high (64%).
American Airlines management asked for damages in the millions of dollars. has not yet asked for the judge to order remuneration.
How Is This Going to Help Contract Negotiations?
American Airlines management may believe that securing a judgment against the mechanics would stop the hemorrhaging and perhaps it will. However, I don’t believe that it makes sense if the goal is to reach an agreement. An already hostile environment is only going to become more contentious if American collects on the potential damages.
Perhaps management is trying to show their teeth to match the tone of some mechanics but in fairness, American Airlines executives have their agreements in place, mechanics can’t say the same. In my opinion, if mechanics can’t strike, can’t legally slow work down, they are backed into a corner and penalizing the unions further isn’t going to help.
American Airlines is playing hardball with the very employees that keep airplanes flying. Mechanics have been without a contract for years and while both sides could suggest that it’s because the other is being unreasonable, management seems more determined than ever to drag mechanics to the table to negotiate and I don’t think that’s likely to be effective.
What do you think? Should American Airlines management seek the award of their judgment to offset damages by mechanics slowdown? Can management get out of their own way?