American Airlines and its flight attendants union have been unable to agree on how to test uniforms that could be causing allergic reactions in thousands of employees.
In an update sent to flight attendants on Friday, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants said that it has been unable to reach a “joint testing protocol” with the company after several months of talks, and now intends to conduct its own tests on the uniforms.
“It has since become apparent to APFA that we will not be able to reach agreement on a joint testing program due to two unreasonable conditions insisted on by the company,” the update said.
According to the union, the company wanted to test only uniform pieces from the manufacturer that have not yet been worn. American also wanted to have a third-party toxicologist jointly selected by the company and the union interpret the results or have both the company and the union’s toxicologists to agree on the results.
“While we would hope that the APFA and the company would interpret any future test results in the same way, we cannot promise in advance that we would reach the same conclusions about the meaning of the test results,” the union said.
American Airlines spokeswoman Kristen Foster said the company still plans to work with the APFA to reach an agreement on a testing protocol.
“Our goal with joint testing has been to address the concerns of our team members. For their benefit, we don’t want multiple interpretations,” Foster said. “It’s important to have one answer about what the test results mean.”
In September, American rolled out 1.8 million new uniforms for pilots, flight attendants, gate agents and ground workers. Before long, some flight attendants began reporting allergic reactions such as hives, headaches and rashes. Within a week, the company set up a hotline for employees who were having problems with the uniforms.
Since then, the union said it has received reports from more than 3,200 flight attendants. Some have reported going to the hospital for difficulty breathing and other respiratory issues.
The company has offered several non-wool options from its vendor, Twin Hill. It also announced it was offering a fourth option in March, made by a different manufacturer, Aramark. APFA said over 7,000 flight attendants have ordered the Aramark uniform so far.