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Flight attendants' negotiations.

Three and one-half years after negotiations began, Alaska Airlines and the Association of Flight Attendants signed a 5-year labor contract covering 1,500 flight attendants. The settlement was heralded by the parties as "a great leap of faith ... a bold step to reinvent our company." It was reached shortly after the company announced that it would accept a pact patterned after the flight attendants' agreement at Southwest Airlines, which recently purchased Morris Air, a no-frills Alaska air carrier, to gain entry in the Alaska air market. The union credited as factors in the settlement its CHAOS ("create havoc around our system") campaign, in which flight attendants conducted short, sporadic work stoppages and delays to force the carrier back to the bargaining table, and a subsequent court decision upholding the strategy. Key issues in the dispute revolved around proposals dealing with increases in wages and layover pay, pension cuts and control of the union's pension fund, higher employee deductibles for medical benefits, and more flexible work rules.

Alaska Airlines had unilaterally implemented new contract terms for flight attendants in June 1993, after reaching an impasse in bargaining. The imposed terms included a 3-percent wage increase, larger employee payments for medical benefits, cuts in the company's contributions to the union's pension fund, changes in work rules that allow for more flexible scheduling, an open shop (under which union membership would be optional), and an increase in minimum monthly flying hours.

The contract calls for immediate salary increases ranging from $300 to $1,000 a month, depending on the flight attendants' seniority and mileage flown, and contingent lump-sum cost-of-living adjustments for flight attendants at the top pay step. It lowers the carrier's contribution rate for pensions to a maximum of 6 percent (formerly, 7 percent), or $5,000, of an attendant's monthly salary, with the money going to fund a 401(k) savings plan instead of the defined benefit pension plan. The agreement substitutes mileage for flight hours as the basis for pay, allows for more flexibility in scheduling, and incorporates other changes in work rules that are expected to increase productivity. It eliminates some company required payments and establishes penalty payments for some work practices. The contract introduces a different step system for longevity pay increases, improves medical coverage with no additional cost to employees, refers several work rules in dispute to arbitration, and reinstates the union shop provision, which had been dropped under the imposed contract.

Alaska Airlines, which is based in Seattle, WA, operates in 43 cities in Alaska, Mexico, Russia, and five western States. The carrier has had difficult labor relationships because large operating losses and increased competition from upstart air carriers had forced it to seek cost savings from its unions.

Early settlement at Keebler

Almost 8 months before their contract was to expire, the Keebler Co. and the Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers reached agreement on a 3-year master contract covering some 2,400 workers at five cookie and cracker plants in Atlanta and Macon, GA; Cincinnati, OH; Denver, CO; and Grand Rapids, MI. The company had asked for early negotiations to restructure the current indemnity health care plan to decrease costs and still provide high quality benefits.

Terms call for wage increases of 40 cents an hour in November 1994, 50 cents an hour in November 1995, 1996, and 1997, and 10 cents an hour in May 1998. At the expiration of the prior contract, the average hourly base rate was $15.24.

The traditional indemnity health insurance plan is replaced by a managed care point-of-service plan with lower costs and some improvements in benefits. The new plan calls for 100 percent reimbursement (formerly, 80 percent) for hospital and surgical benefits and adds coverage for preventive care procedures such as annual physical examinations and well-baby care.

Other terms provide a $150 increase over the term in the minimum monthly pension, pushing the base level to $1,150 by the last year of the contract. The contract also increases senior employees' pension benefits by 4 percent for each year of service in excess of 25 years. Other terms introduce a 401(k) savings plan in January 1995 and amend the family and medical leave policy to give employees the option to take paid vacation or leave without pay for family or medical emergencies.

Stanford University Hospital

Using a "mutual gains" bargaining approach, Stanford University Hospital and the independent Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement reached agreement on a 2-year contract covering 1,000 registered nurses at the hospital's facilities in Stanford, CA. Both sides spoke favorably of the bargaining strategy. A hospital spokesperson said, "Mutual gains bargaining worked much better than traditional bargaining." Although union leadership was not as enthusiastic about the process, a union spokesperson said it allowed the parties to "problem solve and understand each other's problems."

The contract provides wage increases of 2 percent in the first year and 2.5 percent in the second year. At the expiration of the prior agreement, nurses' rates ranged from $20.53 to $29.65 an hour.

Other terms establish procedures that nurses should follow if they think there is a staff shortage; boost the hospital's contributions to the union's 403(b) retirement plan to 7 percent, from 6 percent, for nurses who contribute at least 2 percent of their salaries to the plan; and allow nurses to accumulate paid time off for time worked for all hours up to 80 in a pay period except for "emergency call-backs."

Twin Cities janitors' agreement

Local 26 of the Service Employees International Union and 18 janitorial companies in the St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN, metropolitan area signed a 3-year master agreement covering 3,000 janitors working in commercial buildings in downtown and outlying suburbs in the Twin Cities area. The terms also were accepted by several smaller cleaning firms, which signed "me-too" agreements.

The pact provides annual 25-cent-an-hour wage increases for full-time and part-time employees working in downtown buildings, pushing the hourly rates in the last year of the contract to $8.01 for full-time general cleaners, $8.21 for full-time repair personnel, and $6.75 for part-time general cleaners. A new hourly rate of $6.50 (a 90-cent-an hour raise) is established for full-time general cleaners working in the suburbs, and that rate increases by 30 cents an hour in January 1995 and by 40 cents an hour in January 1996. The contract also provides annual wage increases of 30 cents an hour for part-time general cleaners working in the suburbs, with the rate reaching $6.50 an hour in the last year of the contract.

The terms increase employer contributions towards health care benefits by $15 over the term of the contract, to $135 a month per full-time employee; continue employee payments for dependent coverage under the health care plan; and boost disability pay by $85 over the term, to $150 a week for up to 13 weeks for each event in a year. The contract also enhances senior employees' paid vacation by granting 4 weeks after 12 years of service (formerly, 15 years); allows employees with at least 1 year of service to take a leave of absence without pay for up to 3 months for "sickness, recuperation thereafter, or other justifiable reason;" and requires the companies to pay to the union $1 a day per employee if temporary help is used.

Dispute ends at Health-Tex

A 3-day work stoppage ended when negotiators for Health-Tex, a leading manufacturer of children's clothing, and Locals 2441, 1126c, and 704c of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers signed a 3-year agreement covering 1,200 workers in Warrenton, GA; Centerville, AL; and Danville, VA. The major issue in the dispute was job security, particularly as it involved subcontracting. The union struck Health-Tex after the company reversed its decisions to accept existing job protection language that would maintain employment levels at the plants and an arbitrator's award issued last year that bars the company from contracting out bargaining unit work that would result in employment cuts.

According to the union, the contract includes "very strong new language" that prohibits the company from farming out manufacturing work to domestic or foreign contractors unless the 1,200 current employees at the three plants are working. The agreement calls for wage increases of 3.5 percent in the first year and 2.5 percent in the second and third years. Other terms enhance promotion and job bidding rights, improve health care and disability benefits, and liberalize vacation pay eligibility. In addition, the contract includes improvements in time off and bereavement pay.
COPYRIGHT 1994 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Developments in Industrial Relations; Alaska Airlines
Author:Cimini, Michael H.; Behrmann, Susan L.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Jun 1, 1994
Previous Article:Settlements at GM.
Next Article:Restoring the Promise of American Labor Law.

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