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United Pilots Union Backs No Furlough Deal That Will Prevent Lay-Off’s Until June 2021

United Pilots Union Backs No Furlough Deal That Will Prevent Lay-Off’s Until June 2021

The United Master Executive Council of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has overwhelmingly backed a tentative agreement that would prevent United from involuntary furloughing any of its pilots until June 2021 at the earliest. The hope is that by that point a COVID-19 vaccine is being widely distributed and demand for air travel will be experiencing a much-needed resurgence.

The deal requires formal ratification from United’s 13,000 pilots who will have to agree to fly fewer hours each month and take more days off. Minimum pay guarantees for so-called ‘line holders’ will also be lowered in order to keep all of the Chicago-based airline’s pilots in employment.

Last month, United warned 2,850 of its most junior pilots that they faced being involuntary furloughed on October 1 when federal payroll support runs out. News of a deal in principle leaked last week but at that time both the union and United declined to comment on the details.

As a sweetener to convince longer-serving pilots to agree to temporary pay cuts in order to save junior flight crew, United will offer an immediate 5 per cent rise as soon as the company returns to a 5 per cent profit margin. United reached this threshold in the last six years up to the point that the Corona crisis decimated the aviation industry.

“This TA (tentative agreement) underscores our commitment to all 13,000 United pilots and represents the importance of creative solutions needed to mitigate massive layoffs for our pilots,” commented United pilot union Chairman Captain Todd Insler.

“Through past bankruptcies, mergers, strikes, 9/11 and other adverse events affecting this airline, United pilots have always taken care of each other,” Captain Isler continued. “I am confident the COVID-19 global pandemic is another challenge we will overcome. Through pilot unity and resolve, we will leave a lasting legacy for future generations of United pilots.”

Isler said the deal leaves the pilot contract intact and flight crew won’t be expected to make any long-term concessions. “When we exit the pandemic, our contract will be fully intact and substantially improved,” he said of the deal.

Despite this job-saving deal, Isler again urged Congress to pass CARES Act 2 which would extend payroll support through to the end of March 2021. Hundreds of thousands of airline and aviation workers faced being made jobless at the end of September without the lifeline from the federal government, Isler warned.

United had previously warned of the potential for 36,000 involuntary furloughs across the company but has managed to reduce that number by more than half to around 16,000 furloughs and redundancies. The airline credited employees with taking up early-out packages and extended periods of unpaid leave for reducing the need for involuntary job losses.

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