Wed, May 07, 2003
Union Thinks So
The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) Local 33,
serving Northwest and Mesaba Airlines, say that Northwest is
overstating the SARS threat in order to continue avoiding
obligations in its labor contracts.
Here's how they figure that: in a letter to AMFA
officials, Northwest said that because of SARS it is invoking the
"force majeure" clause that would release Northwest from contract
commitments affecting wages and job security. Earlier, Northwest
invoked the "force majeure" clause because of the Iraq conflict,
but labor groups challenged Northwest's legal justification and
President Bush's declaration of the end of major fighting in Iraq
weakened the case for continued use of the "force majeure"
"Force majeure" refers to unforeseen events that can justify
modifying or excusing the performance of contract obligations --
"acts of God," they were sometimes called, in the olden days...
SARS scare overstated, says Union.
"According to a May 5 report from the
International Air Transport Association, there have been five cases
of SARS from a total of 200 million air passengers since March of
this year. That's far from the scale of catastrophe needed to
justify force majeure," said AMFA Local 33 President Jim Atkinson.
"If SARS becomes a major health problem for air passengers, wait
till then to talk about force majeure. If the bigger problem now is
fear of SARS, Northwest should move to reduce this fear, not fan
the flames by prematurely invoking a force majeure emergency."
Travel dropped, though...
Atkinson said, "Northwest traffic dropped 13 percent in April
compared to a year earlier, with a 24.7 percent decline in
transpacific traffic. The airline has provided no data on the
specific impact of the SARS threat, yet is attributing these drops
to SARS. We're disappointed that Northwest would risk reducing the
public's confidence in flying by overstating the SARS threat in
order to avoid contract obligations. This is bad for customer
relations and bad for business."
Does any airline want SARS, or anything else, to reduce its
passenger traffic, just to aid a union negotiation? Apparently AMFA
Local 33 thinks so.
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