District 140 President’s Message- United Airlines – Is One Nasty Employer!

On February 20, 2014, in the midst of the IAMAW filing for conciliation with United Airlines, the employer informed us it was pulling out of Canada and would outsource its Canadian operations effective May 1, 2014.

The announcement affected both ticket agents and ground handling personnel – 85 members of IAM Local Lodge 764 in Vancouver and 58 members of IAM Local Lodge 2734 in Calgary. At that time we made it very clear to United that we would do whatever it took to protect this work.

Under the Collective Agreement, the Company must provide the Union with at least ninety (90) days’ notice of any decision to contract out any or all of the work of the Bargaining Unit or to discontinue operations. The Agreement also states the Company must provide the Union with all relevant financial and costing documentation and meet with the Union to review viable alternatives which the Union may wish to propose, to maintain the work within the Bargaining Unit. United provide the Union with limited financial and costing information in support of their decision to contract out the work. As a result of United’s conduct during bargaining, the Union filed an Unfair Labour Practice against them. To rub salt in the wound, United also asked the Federal Government for a waiver to shorten the 16 weeks’ notice provisions of the Federal Labour Code so it could meet their time objectives.

On March 4, 2014, during the conciliation process, the Union provided United with a proposal to maintain the work in-house within the Bargaining Unit. I can tell you that we put a proposal on the table but not one that we wanted to, but we tried to do everything we could to preserve these good paying jobs with good benefits. Our proposal had an approximate 29% reduction in the current cost of their Collective Agreement and United turned it down flat! United wanted a minimum of 30-35% reduction in Calgary and 40-45% in Vancouver.

They did not want to continue to utilize their own people in their Canadian operations; that message was very, very clear. There was no doubt in our minds that after that response, no matter what we put on the table, the corporate decision was they were outsourcing the work – period! We then went into discussions for enhanced severance packages for our members and to protect their rights under the Labour Code. United wanted waivers from the Federal Government to sidestep the Labour Code. The IAMAW fought this and won!

United is a nasty employer. In fact, without hesitation, they stated to the Union representatives: “We would apologize for the way we broke this news to our employees, but what can we say, we are not nice people”.

As Union leaders, we talk about political action and how the Harper Government wants to introduce right to work legislation in Canada. United came into Canada and tried to adopt the practices of right to work legislation, a practice they exercise in the United States. They tried to manipulate and utilize the government in order to achieve their goals. They were unsuccessful because of your Union’s opposition to it.

We fought hard for our United members and I’m extremely pleased with the efforts of the bargaining committees from YVR & YYC, and the General Chairpersons that represent these members. They ended up getting an enhanced severance package. Some of our people are going to walk away with some decent severance in their pockets and they deserve it!

Their enhanced severance packages exceed what their Collective Agreement offered and what is offered under the Labour Code. They will receive the equivalent of two weeks’ severance for every year of service with a cap of 52 weeks, 5 years of pension bridging for members who have attained age 47 or older to get them to their age 52 pension milestone, extend health and dental benefits for 3 months and flight pass privileges for 6 months. Members with 10 years of service or more will be able to purchase up to a maximum of 15 years of flight travel privileges to bridge them to their retirement flight passes.

We also got them wage continuance for the entire 16 week termination notice period. Even though they will be terminated prior to the 16 week notice period (May 1st), they will get paid to the last day of the 16 week notice period of June 12th.

What United has done is set a pattern. Our United members were the first victims of the race to the bottom. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that United, or any of the Star Alliance partners, won’t repeat this tactic.

Fred Hospes,
President and Directing General Chairperson
Transportation District 140, IAMAW

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