Why flight attendants are upset Southwest Airlines offered raises and bonuses in a YouTube video
The union for Southwest Airlines’ flight attendants is accusing the company of circumventing negotiations by going straight to employees with details of potential raises that could come with a new contract.
In a video sent to employees last week, executives at Dallas-based Southwest Airlines pitched a proposal with options for 3% raises or 2.5% raises with a $2,000 signing bonus.
The two sides started talks on a new contract earlier this year and Southwest said it hopes to get a deal done by Nov. 1 that covers all 16,778 flight attendants.
In the video, posted in an unlisted link on YouTube, Southwest vice president of in-flight operations Sonya Lacore and vice president of labor relations Russell McCrady said they were giving an update on negotiations and gave details on the proposed raises. They also said there is a proposal for a new reserve system for flight attendants.
The company presented the deal to the union earlier this month, McCrady said. The video from Southwest followed a private video from the union updating contract talks.
Even with raises, TWU 556 President Lyn Montgomery said the company’s early proposal has been “overwhelmingly unpopular” with members.
“It didn’t answer … many of the questions our members have,” Montgomery said. “It isn’t normal for the company to come out and give this straight to members.”
In the video, McCrady said the pay package isn’t a final proposal to flight attendants but the company hopes to narrow negotiations.
“This is not a take-it-or-leave-it offer, so we narrowed the topics that we were willing to tackle in this negotiation,” McCrady said.
In a statement, Southwest spokesman Brian Parrish said the airline often communicates with employees about negotiations and proposals “so that when the time comes to vote they can make an informed decision regarding what is best for their interests.”
The two sides are back to the negotiating table after ratifying a two-year deal in 2016 that included a 6% raise in 2016 and 3% raises in 2017 and 2018. Without a new deal, flight attendants won’t get a raise this year.
Montgomery said flight attendants have about three dozen issues they want addressed in a new contract, making it more complex than a deal simply regarding pay raises and health benefits. She said flight attendants want to negotiate better pay for the time that employees and passengers are on the plane before it takes off.
“Flight Attendants are spending much more time on the ground attending to passenger needs and wants,” she said. “They are not compensated on the ground in the same manner as when the aircraft is in the air. They should be fairly compensated both times as their duties whether in the air or on the ground are no different.”
There are also issues with flight attendants regarding reserve time, overtime and rest between flights. Montgomery said the company also wants to be able to switch aircraft types or even start meal service without further negotiations. The union wants any changes in job descriptions to be negotiable.
The two sides started talking earlier this year. The union said the company has been slow to respond to requests for information. McCrady said the sides have reached agreement on only four of more than 30 major issues.
“I’m very concerned about the pace of negotiations,” McCrady said in the video. “We are on the path for a very long negotiation process.”