United Airlines shakes up Hawaii jobs

United Airlines shakes up Hawaii jobs

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - United Airlines has decided to stop outsourcing ground work at Honolulu International Airport, while its ground workers at Lihue, Kahului and Kona today are voting on concessions that could save their own jobs as well.

United will return to using its own employees for aircraft cleaning, baggage handling and other ground duties at Honolulu, Phoenix, Denver and Dulles.

There may be job opportunities for people now working for United’s outsource contractors, but the IAM contract gives first preference to UAL ground workers from other airports.

United is proceeding with outsourcing ground work at 12 mainland airports, but has held off doing it at Lihue, Kahului and Kona after IAM representatives reached tentative agreement on wage and benefit concessions.

”The gap between local market rates and ours was simply too big for the company and the IAM to create a viable proposal on which employees could vote,” United’s Jon Roitman said in a memo to employees.

The 236 affected workers were told the terms of the proposed concessions and have until Thursday to vote on them, HawaiiNewsNow has learned.

They include wage cuts, ranging to 20 to 40 cents an hour for new employees to $4.25 an hour for the most senior workers. United would also stop matching 401k contributions, and full-time workers would be encouraged to work split shifts, according to United employees who have seen the tentative agreement.

The memo from Roitman, who is senior vice president for airport operations, mentioned another concession: lower staffing levels. This appears to mean that even acceptance of the concessions won't save all 236 jobs.

For the concessions to take effect, saving these jobs, IAM needs two-thirds majority approval overall, and at each of the three affected airports individually.

District 141 of IAM says it does not condone or endorse “this bad business decision.” It argues United should maintain its work force in every station, adding, “We simply do a better job.”

Other airlines that have outsourced ground work have indeed had problems with lost bags, flight delays, and even damage to aircraft, though these problems appeared to subside after awhile.

If the concessions for the UAL workers at Lihue, Kahului and Kona don’t succeed, ground workers at these three airports can still use their seniority to bump into jobs at other airports. IAM says even workers who have been with United only since 2006 may in some cases be able to put in for transfers, due to a rising number of vacancies.

All sides in the debate over outsourcing say United can save millions per airport by laying off employees and hiring outsource contractors who pay their own workers less.

United ground workers tend to make at least half again more than the employees of non-union outsource contractors, who also get fewer medical benefits and, since they’re not airline employees, can’t fly free.

Often the outsource contractor is another airline. Delta and American both have subsidiaries that perform ground work not only for their own parent companies but for competitors when they can win the contracts. Serving several airlines is key to the profitability of a ground services contractor, since it reduces “down time” when employees don’t have any work to perform.

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