Ramp Service Workers Locked Out.
Alaska Airlines ramp
workers arrived at Seattle Tacoma International airport at 0300 PDT
Friday to find that their jobs had been given to contractors. Angry
baggage handlers who rejected a contract last week vow to continue
the fight for their jobs, while the airline pilots union filed suit
to protest salary cuts handed to them by an arbitrator.
"A decision of this kind, impacting people who have served this
company well, is extremely difficult," said Alaska's CEO Bill Ayer
in a release. "But the ongoing turmoil in the airline industry,
coupled with high fuel prices and pressure from low-cost carriers,
puts us in a position where we must continue to find ways to reduce
the cost of running our airline."
London based Menzies
Aviation workers began loading baggage right away, with most
flights departing within minutes of their scheduled time. The
airline now contracts ramp service in 41 of the 56 cities that it
Working with Menzies in Seattle is hoped to save the airline
more than $13 million annually. Menzies provides ground handling
services for Alaska Airlines in Los Angeles, Portland, San
Francisco, San Jose and at Mexican airports.
The airline stated that the decision is the result of a lengthy
evaluation process and came after extensive negotiations with the
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM)
to discuss contract changes.
"Unfortunately, we were unable to achieve a contract approaching
the savings available from service providers," said Ed White,
Alaska's vice president of ground operations.
"To ease the transition for affected employees, we are working
with the IAM to offer a more lucrative severance package than that
specified in the current contract," White said.
This package includes
two weeks of base pay for each year of service; a cash bonus of
$3,000 to $15,000 based on length of service; one year of
company-paid health care coverage; travel benefits for the employee
and eligible dependents; and a nine-week extension of current wages
and benefits, as required by law. The airline also will provide
information on outplacement assistance, career counseling,
retraining resources and opportunities with other local
Seattle employees can apply for jobs with Menzies and still
receive their severance. The airline is still negotiating with more
than 450 ramp service, air freight and supply agents in the state
of Alaska, 140 air freight and supply agents in Seattle; and 13
supply agents in California
Union leaders equated the action to a call for war. IAM District
143 claims that the action is an illegal lock-out and they'll
pursue legal action to preserve members jobs. Previously, the
airline management had indicated the decision would not be made
until the end of the month.
Union leaders told the Seattle Times that by airline management
has violated the IAM's collective-bargaining agreement with the
carrier, and the Railway Labor Act.
"If Alaska is looking for a fight that may prove fatal to the
airline, they have found one," Robert Roach Jr., general vice
president of transportation for the IAM, said in a statement.
In March, the airline filed a lawsuit to force the IAM into
arbitration to determine whether its contract allows the jobs to be
outsourced. Management went ahead with outsourcing before
resolution of the lawsuit.
The Air Line Pilots
Association, the union for Alaska Airlines' pilots, sued the
airline yesterday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, hoping to
overturn an arbitrator's decision that cut pilot pay by an average
of 26 percent. The union charges that Richard Kasher, the
arbitrator, and the arbitration board failed to follow rules that
the airline and the union had agreed upon.
ALPA wants the April 30th decision overturned. The decision gave
some pilots a pay cut of 34 percent. Alaska expects to save $80
million to $90 million annually if the decision is upheld.