HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After three years of negotiations and no deal, Hawaiian Airlines’ flight attendants Wednesday approved their first-ever strike authorization vote.
The Association for Flight Attendants said 99.9% of its membership that participated voted to approve.
It was the highest support for a strike the union has seen in its history.
“Hawaiian flight attendants are sending an emphatic message to management: Delay is not acceptable; we demand the contract we deserve because we earn it every day," said Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants union Master Executive Council President Sharon Soper, in a news release.
The union contends Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants are paid less than their counterparts in the industry despite the high cost of living in the islands and other cities where the airline flies.
The flight attendants started negotiations on a new contract in January 2017. Since then, the union says their average pay has stagnated around $50,000 a year.
The airline said it recognized the flight attendants frustration in the prolonged talks. But Hawaiian said the overall package its offering will increase flight attendants pay and benefits.
“We acknowledge they’ve fallen behind in the pay," said Jon Snook, Hawaiian’s chief operating officer.
“The overall economics of it puts more money in the pockets of our flight attendants and that’s what we have to do. They’ve fallen behind in pay particularly and so we have to find a way to put pay in their pockets sooner than later.”
But the union said concessions sought by the airline ― like higher medical and retirement costs ― will wipe out any raises.
“The amount the company has proposed in raising the wages would be quickly overtaken by increases in costs to the flight attendants in other parts of the contract," said Jeff Fuke, a member of the union’s negotiating committee.
Last year, Hawaiian Airlines generated $2.83 billion in revenues, a 6.1% increase from the year earlier.
But at the same time, the airline’s net income fell 29.5% to $233.2 million.
A strike authorization vote does not mean a strike is imminent. If there’s no deal, it could take months before the National Mediation Board agrees releases both sides from mediation.
That’s followed by a cooling off period that could take months.