Successful union campaign stops furloughs at United Airlines – for now

May 8, 2020

The ITF-affiliated International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers’ (IAM) campaign has managed to stop United Airlines’ scheme intending to force 15,000 full-time IAM members into part-time positions. The carrier, however, has left the door open to resuming its forced reduction to the part-time program.

The IAM’s campaign against United Airlines’ unilateral decision captivated the attention of the entire labour movement, since United’s action threatened to spur other companies to mistreat workers while accepting taxpayer dollars from coronavirus relief legislation.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) supported IAM members in a letter to United Airlines, urging the carrier to reconsider forced layoffs.

The carrier has refused to engage with the IAM in cost-saving discussions, despite the fact that over the past two weeks, the union presented a myriad of voluntary programs and options to provide the company tens of millions of dollars of savings.

In his letter, ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton said: “The IAMAW believes and explains in detail that engaging in social dialogue would provide the carrier with the same amount of financial relief without feeling the need of gutting workers’ contracts or the CARES (the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act.

“As you may know, against this backdrop, the IAMAW is considering all possible legal options, including filing a lawsuit against United Airlines to stop this unilateral action and protect its membership. If the IAMAW opts for this option, the ITF and its aviation affiliates all around the world will not hesitate to provide legal support and solidarity to their brothers and sisters who work for United Airlines.”

The letter also refers to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) The Employment and Decent Work for Peace and Resilience Recommendation (No. 205), which emphasizes, in particular, the importance of social dialogue in responding to crises and the vital role of employers’ and workers’ organizations in crisis response.

Read the IAM’s press release “After IAM’s Pressure, United Backs Off Forced Furlough Plan” from here>>

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