For Union Employees!
Mechanics Defeat Covid-Based Furloughs
Life doesn't stop while you're training on a new plane, we just have to deflect to remain focused. However, yesterday a ruling was brought to my attention, which is a huge win during this pandemic environment, a time when airline employees are being furloughed. It's nice to see when a union fights for jobs. Unlike the pilot's union, the mechanic's union has the ability to employe outside legal counsel, which can make all the difference in the world as was proven in this case.
In a decision dated September 18, 2020, Arbitrator Frederic R. Horowitz rejected Alaska Airlines' position that job security provision negotiated by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) could be nullified in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, based on a force majeure clause contained in their contractual letter of agreement.
A fore majeure clause typically frees parties from liability when an extraordinary event or circumstance occurs that could be considered an act of God.
In paragraph 2 of their letter of agreement the parties negotiated a general no-layoff provision for all union-represented employees, which was subject to a force majeure clause, in which Alaska would be excused from the no-layoff provision in the event of a natural disaster.
However, AMFA subsequently negotiated a supplemental paragraph 4 that created a "No-layoff" protection for its members at six stations (LAX, SEA, SAN, SFO, PDX, and JFK) with no parallel reference to paragraph 2 force majeure clause. Therefore, AMFA argued that the force majeure clause could not be invoked to diminish the no-layoff protections outlined in paragraph 4.
Moreover, AMFA argued that furloughed employees throughout the carrier's system could use their seniority to bid into these six protected stations, even in the absence of vacancies, without the incumbent junior employees at those stations being displace from their positions.
"Our union negotiated for job-protections that are not subject to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we expect those job protections to be honored," Bret Oestreich, AMFA National Director, stated. "The final arbitration decision upheld AMFA's position of both counts."
AMFA was represented in this case by Nicholas Granath of the law firm of Seham, Seham, Meltz & Peterson, LLP. If you would like to read the ruling you can do so by going to the following link: AMFA Beats Covid-Based Furloughs. The ruling link is at the bottom of the press release.