Chicago, Feb. 15 (Reuters): Unions representing United Airlines pilots and flight attendants said on Friday the bankrupt carrier is now seeking $ 2.56 billion in annual cost cuts from its employee groups, up from a previous figure of $ 2.4 billion.
Union leaders said the airline, in a two-page letter they received on Thursday, detailed how labour cost cuts would be allocated among its employee groups. Although union leaders said the proposal was a first step in the negotiating process, they called on the company to provide more information on how it has arrived at the labour cost-cutting figures.
“This document is simply the first step in what promises to be an intense process of negotiations,” Paul Whiteford, head of the United’s unit of the Air Line Pilots Association, said in a letter to union members.
A spokeswoman for United parent UAL Corp., which filed the largest bankruptcy in aviation history on December 9, said she could not confirm the numbers released by the unions.
“As the plan for transformation has evolved and as the economic environment remains unstable, the amount of labour cost savings needed has evolved as well,” UAL spokeswoman Chris Nardella said.
ALPA spokesman Dave Kelly said United now wants $ 1.116 billion in annual labor cost cuts from its 8,800 pilots, the airline’s highest paid work group. Pilots have already agreed to temporary wage cuts of 29 per cent as the union and management work on long-term concessions.
United now wants $ 314 million from its 20,000 flight attendants, a greater share of the total labour wage cuts than what the airline had previously sought, said Sara Dela Cruz, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants.
Flight attendants are also working under temporary 9-per cent pay cuts.
“What we’ve been given to date is not a business plan, it is a marketing presentation, and it’s going over like a ton of bricks with the employees who make up United Airlines,” Greg Davidowitch, head of United’s AFA branch, said in a statement.
Davidowitch said he was particularly troubled by the fact that flight attendants, some of the company’s lowest-paid workers, were asked to bear a greater percentage of the burden while management’s share of the wage cuts was reduced.
Both unions, however, said they were still committed to working with the airline on developing a successful reorganisation plan.