1000s of American Airlines workers to take buyouts

Posted Wednesday, Sep. 26, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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Thousands of American Airlines workers have decided it's time to hang up the tool belt and stop loading bags on to airplanes, and the voluntary departures will mean far fewer layoffs than the carrier had originally anticipated.

The Fort Worth-based carrier said 2,835 mechanics, store clerks and fleet service workers applied for an early-out program that includes severance payments starting at $12,500, depending on the worker's seniority and time at the company. Those work groups are represented by the Transport Workers Union.

In February, American said it expected to cut 8,500 TWU jobs.

With the early-out program and alternative cost reductions included in the TWU's new labor contracts, that number has been reduced to only 2,600 lay-offs.

And the carrier's total layoff number has been cut from the 14,000 it announced in February to 4,000, the carrier said on Wednesday. No pilots or flight attendants will lose their jobs.

"While any involuntary reductions are unfortunate, the significant interest we received in these options, along with interest in the Fleet Service option, will allow us to substantially reduce the number of furloughs necessary for people in these workgroups," American spokesman Bruce Hicks said. Fleet service workers include baggage handlers and cabin cleaners.

American said 1,240 fleet service workers accepted the early-out option when their program closed in August. The carrier plans to outsource some cabin cleaning, fueling and cargo handling operations.

Hicks said early-out departures will be staggered, but most will take place in December 2012, then February, May or September next year.

Mechanics and store clerks had until Tuesday night to inform American they wanted to be considered for the program.

TWU spokesman Jamie Horowitz said the union will release the final early-out numbers on Monday, since workers have five days to change their minds.

According to figures released by the company, 1,446 mechanics and 149 store clerks asked for the early-out.

At its Tulsa maintenance overhaul facility, 683 mechanics and 60 store clerks applied, while at the Alliance Fort Worth maintenance base, 201 mechanics and 30 store clerks asked to leave the company early.

American still plans to close its Alliance Fort Worth facility by April, laying off most of the workers at that facility in December as it outsources heavy maintenance work to third-party vendors. Those include TIMCO Aviation Services and ST Aerospace, which have maintenance facilities in Alabama and North Carolina, and Hong Kong-based HAECO.

Only 16 mechanics and three store clerks at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport hangar applied for the program.

Separately, the pilot union's board of directors met at its headquarters in Fort Worth and said it reaffirmed its support for "re-engaging in negotiations" with American management. The board will continue to meet today and Friday to provide guidance for the union's negotiating team.

Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631

Twitter: @Sky_Talk

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