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FROM THE PUBLISHER


PUBLISHER


GREG NAPERT gnapert@DOMmagazine.com


I’ve been quietly observing the degradation of relations between the Southwest Airlines and its maintenance personnel over the past couple of years. At a time when the airline has attained record profi ts, achieved gains in market share and has seen huge gains in its stock value — one would think that it would be generous with its employees. However, starting more than fi ve years ago, Southwest started to play hardball with its employee unions. Its pilot union contract was approved in late 2016 — and the pilots managed to see huge percentage increases in their pay (reportedly more than 30 percent increase by 2020), but it took more than four years to get there. The mechanics union (Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association — AMFA), however, is now going on more than fi ve years of negotiation with very little progress. Southwest seems to be determined to not only hold out on back pay for the years of negotiation, but to leave its options open for outsourcing and off er mechanics a modest increase in salary. The negotiation has taken on a nasty tone at certain points. At one point, the airline fi red a Union Steward, Ken Hackett, after being accused of helping organize an overtime boycott that forced Southwest to hire outside maintenance mechanics. Through an arbitrator, the airline was forced to reinstate Hackett with back pay. While Hackett was off work, a Go Fund Me account had been set up by other mechanics to help Hackett. Then, when Southwest went to calculate the back pay after the settlement, it deducted the Go Fund Me money stating that their reinstatement agreement allowed them to deduct anything that Hackett had earned while not working for Southwest. Although I’m not a lawyer, it appears to me that Southwest did have the right to subtract these funds from his back pay. However, having the right to do something, and doing something for the right reasons, are two diff erent things.


66 DOMmagazine.com | mar 2018 WHERE’S THE LUV?


As you can imagine, this really upset mechanics at Southwest – and not just the people that were involved in raising money for Hackett. In fact, this became somewhat of a public relations event for Southwest and it felt enough pressure to change its tune regarding withholding the Go Fund Me money! An offi cial letter published by AMFA dated February 9th clarifi ed that Southwest would not be subtracting the Go Fund Me money and, “He has been paid in full by Southwest Airlines for all lost wages during his ordeal.” But this entire series of events with its mechanics just seems counter-intuitive. Why would an airline keep the lowest mechanic- to-aircraft ratio in the industry? Why would they drag out a negotiation for a group of individuals that contribute so much to the airline? Why, when times are so good fi nancially would they not reward these critical employees and keep everyone happy? In addition to the obvious black eye associated with these disputes - Southwest had growth and expansion plans that include fl ights to Hawaii. This involves Extended Operations (ETOPS) inspections that Southwest has stated they want to have done through outsourcing. There is some discussion as to whether or not this violates their current agreement with the union and given the negative state of aff airs with the mechanics union – the union is not exactly motivated do reach an agreement to allow Southwest to outsource this work. Flights to Hawaii therefore are currently questionable. I’m not sure exactly what’s going on at Southwest. It seems to me like there is more here at stake than money. I suspect that egos and politics may be playing a bit more of a role than is apparent from the outside. Unfortunately, this has resulted in an unhappy bunch at Southwest Airlines. For an Airline that built its reputation on HAPPY employees — it better recognize that it has a problem — and fi x it! Let’s hope that happens soon. Thanks for reading! Greg Napert, Proud to be an A&P


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