After failing to find an amicable solution, the union representing United Airlines flight attendants has invoked a formal grievance process to battle the base closure of three international domiciles.
AFA Launches United Flight Attendant Base Closure Battle
Last month, United Airlines announced the closure of these three international flight attendant bases, citing a downturn in demand and a need to cut costs. These flights attendants, many of them U.S. citizens who voluntarily chose to be based at these stations, now face difficult prospects ahead. Those who are permitted to work in the USA will be able to transfer to a U.S. base, subject to United’s overall threat to terminate flight attendant positions effective October 1, 2020. But those who do not have a U.S. work permit will be forced out of the company.
In a memo to United flight attendants based in Frankfurt, Hong Kong, and Tokyo shared with Live and Let’s Fly, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) outlined a lack of progress that had been made upon behalf of members. Specifically, the AFA had undertaken efforts to preserve the base at Tokyo Narita.
Per the AFA letter, United has been unwilling to budge and has been reluctant to even meet, stating “a meeting could only take place with the Union based on a pre-condition that major concessions would need to be part of any comprehensive solution.”
With progress stalled, the AFA will now file two Master Executive Council (MEC) grievances, as outlined by the contract. The MEC is the administrative body that represents United flight attendants within the AFA.
We have already filed two MEC Grievances directly related to the base closure. The first MEC Grievance was filed when the company announced the base closure and indicated that vacancies would not be created at our remaining international base, LHR in contradiction to the terms of our Contract.
The second MEC Grievance was filed when the company indicated that while Flight Attendants can submit bids for voluntary furloughs, those bids will not be awarded to those individuals not having the necessary documents to work in the United States as of October 1, 2020.
Outside legal counsel has been hired for each of the three international domiciles slated for closure.
With new bookings retreating once again and cancellations ticking up due to the latest surge in COVID-19 cases, a solution that will save jobs become less likely. Still, the AFA will fight the base closures on two fronts, arguing that closing off the LHR base to transfers and restricting voluntary furloughs runs afoul of the contractual rights of United flight attendants.