Usair To Eliminate Jobs, But Workers Wonder Whose

February 13, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Robert Pital doesn't think he will be among the 3,500 employees USAir plans to lay off in the next few months, but he can't be certain.

Neither can any of the other 3,100 USAir employees at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. They know the numbers, but not the names -- and that has them worried.

The Frederick resident, a stock clerk responsible for replacement airplane parts at BWI, says he has seniority and is skilled at many tasks.

But Pital has been laid off before -- in 1981 during the air traffic controllers strike, when airlines were forced to cancel flights and lay off workers. BWI is the fifth airport he has worked at since joining USAir 11 years ago.

"It's not new to me," he said. "If it happens, it happens. Everyone is worried, but a lot of us have been through it before."

Pital was the only employee who would give his name during interviews with pilots, flight attendants, ticket agents and other USAir employees at BWI yesterday. Most wouldn't talk at all.

While the airline has made public the number of people it plans to lay off, it has not announced which cities will be affected.

USAir officials said it will take several weeks to determine who will be let go because of the complicated tasks of relocating employees, choosing flights to cancel and offering vacant jobs to senior employees.

Two weeks ago, the Arlington, Va.-based airline announced a major restructuring, saying the company lost $454 million in 1990.

On Monday, USAir said 3,585 employees would be laid off -- including 660 pilots, 540 flight attendants, 505 mechanics, 305 reservation agents, 1,300 customer service agents and 275 managers and staff. The expected layoffs would amount to about 7 percent of USAir's 52,000 workers.

The airline also said it would close four of 12 flight crewbases and a maintenance facility in Utica, N.Y.

Officials said yesterday that the flight crew base at BWI, which employs about 1,000 of the 3,100 USAir employees at the airport, will not be affected.

A USAir spokeswoman said two weeks ago that a "few hundred (workers) at the most" could lose their jobs at BWI.

The airline, BWI's major carrier, will reduce the number of flights at the airport from 151 to 126 by May 2.

But whether that results in job cuts remains to be seen, which is why many employees are confused and nervous.

"They can't have a specific number without knowing who will be let go," said Victor Mazzocco, general chairman for the International Association of Machinists District 141, a union representing 8,500 USAir workers nationwide, 265 at BWI.

"They know more then they've been willing to divulge," he said. "We have been unable to determine how many actual positions will be lost as a result of the cut in flights."

One pilot interviewed yesterday said he already knows who will be laidoff.

Since layoffs are based on seniority and are not influenced by plant closings, "just take a list and count up 660 names from the bottom and that's who goes," said the man, who refused to give his name and who referred specifically to layoffs of pilots.

The pilot, who has worked for USAir for seven years, said he was laid off twice while working for TWA. "It's not fun, but it's business," he said.

But the pilot said he never expected 3,500 workers to lose their jobs, a statement echoed throughout the BWI terminal yesterday. "I didn't expect it this bad," said a ticket agent. "They don't tell us anything."

Officials at the Maryland Aviation Administration, which owns and operates BWI, knew few specifics but remained confident that BWI would remain a USAir hub.

"At this point, we are pleased they decided to keep a flight crew base," said Robert Taylor, director of marketing for the MAA. The base serves as a home office for pilots and flight attendants.

"USAir made an agreement with us (to keep the crew base)," Taylor said. "Their move at this point is to survive these tough times."

Taylor said BWI was singled out among USAir's two other hubs -- Philadelphia and Pittsburgh -- for cutting flights because the airline doesn't fly overseas from Baltimore.

Without overseas flights, many connecting flights aren't as necessary. But Taylor said USAir may offer an overseas flight out of BWI soon, which could mean a resumption of some domestic routes.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.