United Airlines has struck a tentative agreement with a union representing nearly 30,000 ground workers, according to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The agreements would cover “industry-best” wage rates and protect jobs, while guarding against outsourcing roles. The specific terms of the agreements have not been released. The deal coincides with talks being held with pilots and flight attendants. Members of IAM District 141 will soon be given details of the tentative agreement, with the union soon to announce a ratification vote schedule. If the agreements are passed, the union will be back in negotiations in one year from ratification to bargain for more.
The two-year tentative agreements cover seven work classifications – fleet service workers, passenger service workers, storekeepers, central load planners, maintenance instructors, fleet technical instructors and security officers. “Job security and industry-leading wages are rightfully two top priorities for our membership,” said IAM Air Transport Territory Airline Coordinator Tom Regan. United’s pilots reportedly rejected a preliminary agreement last year, with recent negotiations since resuming.
As reported by Reuters, one of the most controversial issues during negotiations has been United Airlines’ plans to outsource some of its domestic flying, a plan agreed in exchange for government aid during the COVID-19 crisis. The company has been directed by lawmakers to use the funds it received to maintain payrolls through to the end of March.
Aviation represents one of the most heavily unionised sectors in the US. Both sides must agree on any proposed deal. Pilots, in particular, have previously made public demands for increased staffing and rates, along with increased transparency and job protection. The airline industry, hit badly by COVID-19, is slowly showing signs of picking up. However, a significant overhang of debt and uncertainty surrounding the return of tourist travel remains.