United action at pay deal delay

Nicole Hurip

Friday, July 17, 2015

More than 40 staff from different carriers united in solidarity at Chek Lap Kok airport yesterday to demand better contract terms for United Airlines flight attendants.
The protesters included pilots from Dragonair and Federal Express, along with United Airlines flight attendants.

The workers some wearing yellow shirts and others their uniforms protested outside Terminal One from 8am.

They said they joined the action before or after their shifts.

They took banners and mounted a silent protest in front of United Airlines' counters from 9am for about 45 minutes.

The banners had slogans that read "Friendly isn't free," "Delay, delay, delay, not okay," and "Record profit$$$. It's our turn."

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA conducted the "day of action" at 20 airports worldwide calling on United Airlines to negotiate a fair contract for flight attendants.

The union and Chicago-based United Airlines have been locked in bitter contract negotiations for the past three years. Local association president Narayanan Nakulan said United Airlines wants to "turn back the clock," criticizing it for offering the staff the lowest-paying contract possible.

He also claimed that the company has been digging in its heels since April, making the negotiations stagnant by not proposing any new options.

"The company has been blaming our negotiators ... [for] not being very forthcoming in terms of looking at the financial model [of the company]," Nakulan said.

He suggested management follow the lead of American Airlines and Delta, which he said have been much more successful in managing their employees.

The association said since negotiations began, United's share price has risen 162 percent, and chief executive Jeff Smisek's salary was boosted by 32 percent.

In comparison, United's frontline staff's wages have increased by less than US$1 (HK$7.80) a year for the past five years, according to the union.

A union among the three groups Continental Micronesia, United Airlines and Continental Airlines was formed five years ago, but they are not yet merged and do not fly together because United Airlines and the association at United have yet to agree on wages, working conditions and benefits.

The two parties reached a protocol agreement made late last year, with United setting a target date of July 23 to reach a full tentative agreement.