A coalition of labor unions that collectively represent more than 78,000 employees at United Airlines poured scorn on a record-breaking jet order by the Chicago-based carrier, warning chief executive Scott Kirby that “none of these planes will fly without the people of United Airlines”.
On Tuesday, United placed the largest-ever airliner order by a U.S. commercial carrier in history with up to 200 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, including 100 firm orders and options for a hundred more, as well as 56 Boeing 737MAX single-aisle jets, and exercising rights for 44 more.
Kirby said the unprecedented order would “solidify” United’s lead and create “new opportunities for our customers, employees and shareholders”. But Kirby’s claim that United had become the de facto U.S. flag carrier was marred by continuing disputes with the airline’s various labor unions.
In fact, with protracted contract negotiations with several workforce groups showing no signs of being resolved any time soon, five labor unions have formed a coalition to coordinate on bargaining and other unspecified issues.
Shortly after Kirby took to the stage at Boeing’s South Carolina factory in Charleston, the coalition of unions released its own statement mocking the historic order.
“Money for new planes, money for supersonic jets without engines, money for yet-to-be-approved electric taxis,” the United Airlines Union Coalition said. “one of these planes will fly without the people of United Airlines.”
The coalition did, at least, “recognize the potential value in this announcement for working people with new aircraft manufactured in the U.S.” but said, “the proof is in the pudding with our contract negotiations.”
“It’s time United Airlines management get serious at the negotiating table to reach contracts that reflect the value of the work of the people who make United fly.”
Kate Gebo, United’s executive vice president of Human Resources and Labor Relations contends that the airline is, in fact, creating “long-lasting careers that offer great pay, outstanding benefits and flight privileges to see the world”.
Despite a worldwide pilot shortage, Gebo says United is still seeing a strong interest in pilot roles, and the airline has already managed to hire 4,000 new flight attendants in 2022 alone. Hiring is also continuing at pace in aircraft maintenance and airport operations.
Last week, the United’s pilots union ratcheted up the pressure by picketing airports and the United board meeting in Houston. But when Kirby came out to speak with the pilots, they turned their backs on him and refused to engage.
Justifying the action, the United pilots union said, “the company has turned its back on pilots, today we did the same.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.
They have lots of money to spend now I see. To bad they defaulted on the employees retitement funds, now the taxpayers/government fund us.
I get sad cause bigger aint better and somewhere inside United is the gobbled up Continental Airlines which my husband piloted for twenty-one years. United took away some simple retiree benefits which would cost them nothing but have plenty for big time expansions.
Too bad the US government will not allow a strike at any of the 4 network carriers. I’m sure the company management takes this into account.