Monday, December 26, 2011

Southwest, AirTran Unions Agree on Seniority


The Transport Workers Union, which represents 10,000 Southwest Airlines Co. flight attendants, said Monday that it and a union representing 2,400 AirTran Airways attendants, have agreed to put a seniority integration plan to their respective members for ratification in January.

Southwest acquired fellow low-cost carrier AirTran in May. In an airline merger or acquisition, work groups must agree to such a list before employees from the two sides can be scheduled as a single group and work under a common labor contract.

Normally the two groups, if represented by different unions, also have to vote on which union will represent the combined group. However, in this case, because Southwest is so much bigger, it is expected that AirTran attendants, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants, will be folded into the TWU.

The TWU said Monday that the tentative agreement will provide seniority enhancements and job security to Southwest attendants and boost the wages and benefits of AirTran attendants to Southwest levels. Southwest also has committed to opening a flight attendant base in Atlanta, from which the majority of AirTran attendants now work.

Earlier this month, the mechanics union leaders of both Southwest and AirTran voted to send a seniority proposal out to members before putting it to a ratification vote. Pilots at the two airlines in November approved a seniority integration plan that will lead to a single labor contract, which will give Southwest the eventual ability to assign AirTran pilots on trips with their Southwest counterparts.

Southwest on Monday confirmed the development and said it was pleased by the tentative agreement involving its largest work group.

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