The union representing United Airlines ground workers says talks have begun over the potential outsourcing of jobs at Lihue, Kona and Kahului airports.
The International Association of Machinists, in a Sunday advisory, said United shared preliminary bids from possible outsource contractors at LIH, KOA and OGG as well as 12 airports on the mainland.
"Each station was reviewed concerning current operations costs and potential costs of vendor bids," wrote Local 141's Rich Delaney. "The cost of vendor bids was an initial and unofficial figure that will change as any future negotiations with the vendor are held."
Delaney expects more specific information in May and told union members not to expect a final decision before mid-summer. The first talks were held last week, according to the IAM posting.
The IAM contract with United guarantees that UAL may not outsource without first giving the union the opportunity to negotiate contract changes that may save the jobs. United still reserves the right to make its own final decision. What has not been specified by either side is whether United can use any union counteroffer to ask a potential contractor to lower its own bid.
The union itself is in the tricky position of trying to save as many jobs as possible without undercutting the wages, benefits and working conditions of members in other cities. In its last contract it did so well that many UAL ground workers make more than workers for other carriers at the same airports.
A distinction is drawn between the security of the job and the job security of the worker. If United eliminates ground positions at, say, Lihue airport, the airline's ground workers there will still be guaranteed work with the airline, but, with the Lihue jobs gone, would have to transfer somewhere else to remain with the company.
For the union, there is the issue of total membership: fewer members, less clout in negotiations.
For the workers, there is the issue of total compensation: if jobs are outsourced, and they don't want to transfer to the mainland, they will compare potential IAM givebacks to deeper compensation cuts if they wind up taking employment with an outside contractor.
For the airline, there are cost and operational issues: any solution which keeps the same people in place is likely to be better from an operational standpoint, but even incremental per-worker savings could translate to millions of dollars systemwide.