American Airlines has today secured a permanent injunction against the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which the airline alleges has led an illegal and “concerted slowdown” in an attempt to put pressure on American and gain an upper hand in an increasingly bitter contract negotiation. The airline argued that the productivity of mechanics has significantly declined, creating havoc with American’s busy summer operation.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas backed an earlier win for American Airlines which originally submitted its complaint back in May. Despite winning a temporary injunction in July, the airline argued the slowdown has continued and that the union has not done enough to distance itself from the slowdown.
American claims that mechanics have been increasingly taking aircraft out of service under ‘minimum equipment list’ (MEL) rules. Once the aircraft has been taken out of service, it’s alleged that mechanics have been working at a much slower pace to resolve the MEL.
Presenting expert analysis, American says productivity has fallen by at least 6.5%, although the impact on the carrier’s summer operation is likely to be far worse.
In testimony to the court, American argued maintenance-related delays had “dramatically increased” because of the slowdown:
“Amerian demonstrated at trial that since early February the number of unscheduled aircraft out of service at 7am has increased sharply, indicating that mechanics are slowing down in their overnight maintenance checks and not completing them by the morning.
American also demonstrated that because of the chances in mechanics’ behavior, the number of maintenance-related cancellations and prolonged maintenance-related delays has dramatically increased”.
The permanent injunction now prevents mechanics from:
- Taking part in any slowdown
- Work to rule campaigns
- Refusing to accept overtime
- Refusing to accept field trips
- Failing to complete maintenance delays
- Threatening mechanics who do accept overtime or field assignments
In addition, the union has been ordered to do everything within its power to prevent the ban activities listed above.
Of course, it’s not quite clear how a court could possibly enforce this injunction. We’ve already seen mechanical delays increase after the temporary injunction was granted – it’s incredibly hard to prove that a mechanic is breaking the injunction and attempting to do so could make the situation even worse.
The TWU hasn’t yet publicly commented on the new court order but it has previously argued airline safety could be compromised if mechanics fear doing their job properly because of the risk of ‘breaking’ the injunction.