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Contract Negotiations For American Airlines Flight Attendants Entering ‘New Phase’ With Possibility That They Could Soon Be Released to Take Strike Action

Contract Negotiations For American Airlines Flight Attendants Entering ‘New Phase’ With Possibility That They Could Soon Be Released to Take Strike Action

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Contract negotiations between American Airlines and the union which represents tens of thousands of flight attendants at the Fort Worth-based carrier are said to be entering a ‘new phase’ according to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), after the latest round of intensive talks wrapped up ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

The negotiations are being overseen by the National Mediation Board (NMB) under the provisions of the Railway Labor Act (which also governs labor relations within many areas of the aviation industry), and the NMB is said to be increasingly keen for American Airlines to reach a deal with its flight attendants.

If American Airlines is unable to quickly reach a deal, then the NMB is believed to be getting much closer to releasing flight attendants into a so-called 30-day cooling-off period. At the end of the cooling-off period, flight attendants would be legally permitted to take ‘self-help’ action, including a hugely disruptive strike.

The union warned its members on Saturday that despite recent media reports, a release to strike is not a done deal, although if no agreement can be reached in the next few weeks, APFA says it believes it has a “very strong case for a release into a thirty-day cooling-off period”.

Flight attendants at American Airlines haven’t had a pay rise since 2019, when their contract became amendable, although the two sides remain far apart on an economic proposal.

American Airlines has stuck firm on a pay raise of 11% with no retro-pay for the five years that flight attendants have gone without an increase. The airline did, however, recently concede a 5% increase in line with what Delta Air Lines recently granted its flight attendants.

In essence, American Airlines is keen to peg flight attendant pay levels at Delta and has refused to budge beyond that position.

Although APFA has, in recent weeks, softened its rhetoric against American Airlines, the union remains frustrated that the right to strike, as an important negotiation tactic, has become almost impossible to actually use.

If the NMB does finally side with the flight attendants, then APFA is expected to use a strike method patented by its sister union, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), which it dubs CHAOS – Create Havoc Around Our System.

The idea is that instead of an all-right strike, which would quickly drain union resources and leave flight attendants on the poverty line, the union would call out flight attendants from random flights at the very last minute.

American Airlines would then struggle to anticipate what flights would be hit, creating confusion and frustration amongst disrupted passengers.

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