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United Airlines Warns Congress it’s Either a Bailout or Huge Job Losses

United Airlines Warns Congress it’s Either a Bailout or Huge Job Losses

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United Airlines published an open letter to employees today with a stark warning – if Congress doesn’t stump up the cash for a multi-billion dollar bailout within the next couple of weeks then the airline will move to reduce its costs through furloughs and possibly even permanent redundancies.

“… if Congress doesn’t act on sufficient government support by the end of March, our company will begin to take the necessary steps to reduce our payroll in line with the 60% schedule reduction we announced for April,” the letter which was co-signed by Oscar Munoz, United’s chief executive and the airline’s president Scott Kirby read.

“May’s schedule is likely to be cut even further,” the dire warning continued – the inference being that further schedule cuts would likely result in even more job losses unless Congress manages to reach a deal to save the airline industry.

The memo made for grim reading. The Marriott hotel chain has shuttered many properties and furloughed tens of thousands of employees. MGM Resorts will start furloughs next week and Scandanavian airline SAS has moved to temporarily lay off 90 per cent of its workforce – just some of the job losses happening in the industry that the letter spelt out.

The message was clear… if United’s employees want to avoid a similar fate then they have to act to protect their jobs.

In Sunday’s message, Oscar and Scott were very direct about just how dire this situation has become and what the company is doing to minimize the impact on you, your families and your paycheck.

Open letter to United’s 100,000 employees

“While many in Washington, D.C. now realize the gravity of this situation, time is running out,” Munoz and Kirby warned. “Please consider sending a letter or email to your representatives in Washington, D.C. urging them to take quick, bipartisan action to protect airline jobs,” they both urged.

The letter continues:

“There’s one other important way for you to pitch in and help. Thousands of United employees have applied for a company offered leave of absence – which is an important way to help the company reduce costs. As we continue to reduce our schedule, we will continue to offer additional COLA opportunities so if you have not already applied, please consider doing so. 

None of us caused COVID-19. But we continue to be among the most severely affected by the economic impact of this crisis, due to the outbreak’s breathtaking effect on travel demand.

The hard work you do everyday matters. And the role you play in the U.S. economy matters. It’s time for the people of United Airlines to put a face on what will happen if the federal government does not act.”

U.S. airlines have so far asked for around $58 billion from the federal government to address the unprecedented storm whipped up by the Coronavirus pandemic. The letter was co-signed by union representatives including from the Association of Flight Attendants, the Teamsters and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants has urged any bailout to be linked to specific conditions that would secure employee wages while also preventing airlines from furloughing employees.

Read the full letter

To our United family:

We hope you and your loved ones are well.

In these difficult and uncertain times, we want to continue to keep you updated about all the ways we are aggressively managing the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on our company.

Since you last heard from Oscar and Scott on Sunday, companies around the world, especially in the travel industry, have announced painful steps they’ve been forced to take to deal with this crisis. Marriott shuttered a number of properties around the world, furloughing tens of thousands of workers. MGM Resorts also closed facilities and will begin furloughs next week. Scandinavian Airlines announced temporary layoffs for 90% of its staff.

In Sunday’s message, Oscar and Scott were very direct about just how dire this situation has become and what the company is doing to minimize the impact on you, your families and your paycheck.

Importantly, today’s message to all of you is co-signed by many of our labor union partners – and includes a specific request for actions you can take to help.

In recent years, and together with our labor leaders, United has made significant investments in our people and created tens of thousands of high-quality jobs. And we are together now, doing everything possible to protect those jobs.

Earlier this week, we jointly signed a letter to leaders in the federal government calling for bipartisan action by the Administration and the United States Congress to support you, the men and women of United Airlines. Oscar and our partners in organized labor have been front-and-center in Washington D.C. for the past month, leading the charge to educate our representatives about the severe impact COVID-19 has had on our business and all of you.

While many in Washington, D.C. now realize the gravity of this situation, time is running out. The airline has made a number of drastic cuts over the last several weeks to reduce our costs: including slashing capital spending, freezing hiring, cutting payments to contractors and vendors, eliminating all discretionary spending and even cutting our corporate officers’ salary by 50% while reducing Oscar and Scott’s salary to zero.

However, as travel demand continues to plummet, even more cost-cutting measures will be required soon to keep our company afloat. To be specific, if Congress doesn’t act on sufficient government support by the end of March, our company will begin to take the necessary steps to reduce our payroll in line with the 60% schedule reduction we announced for April. May’s schedule is likely to be cut even further.

To that end, it’s time for our representatives to hear from all of you.

Your voice matters – whether you work on the ramp, greet customers in the lobby, take calls in our contact centers, prepare food for passengers, service our planes or fly on our aircraft – and our representatives in government need to understand what’s at stake if they do not act.

Please consider sending a letter or email to your representatives in Washington, D.C. urging them to take quick, bipartisan action to protect airline jobs. 

There’s one other important way for you to pitch in and help. Thousands of United employees have applied for a company offered leave of absence – which is an important way to help the company reduce costs. As we continue to reduce our schedule, we will continue to offer additional COLA opportunities so if you have not already applied, please consider doing so. 

None of us caused COVID-19. But we continue to be among the most severely affected by the economic impact of this crisis, due to the outbreak’s breathtaking effect on travel demand.

The hard work you do every day matters. And the role you play in the U.S. economy matters. It’s time for the people of United Airlines to put a face on what will happen if the federal government does not act.

Thank you for all you are doing for our customers and each other during this extraordinary time.

In unity,

Oscar and Scott 

Captain David Bourne 
Director Airline Division 
International Brotherhood of Teamsters 

Ken Diaz 
MEC President, United Airlines Master Executive Council 
Association of Flight Attendants – CWA 

Sito Pantoja 
General Vice President 
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers 

Craig Symons 
President 
Professional Airline Flight Control Association

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