Union assails USAir on part-time positions

April 13, 1994|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,Sun Staff Writer

A representative of the union seeking to organize USAir ground workers reacted angrily yesterday to USAir's plans to hire 800 part-time reservation agents, saying the airline is moving further "toward low-paying, part-time work."

"That is fundamentally the wrong direction," said Bob Callahan, a spokesman for the United Steelworkers of America in Pittsburgh.

The financially struggling airline said this week that it is adding the workers to help handle the surge in business prompted by fare cuts at airports like Baltimore-Washington International. The hiring will not affect the jobs of 4,000 full-time reservation agents.

"We're not taking away any full-time positions; we're adding new jobs," said Andrea Butler, a USAir spokeswoman.

The airline also plans to hire 200 new flight attendants.

The move to hire more part-time workers comes just weeks after USAir began seeking pay cuts and other concessions from the three unions that represent its flight attendants, pilots and machinists.

Since 1989, the Arlington, Va.-based airline has lost more than $2.2 billion. And, facing intense competition from discount airlines, USAir has said it expects to lose $200 million in the first quarter of this year.

Earlier this year, the airline laid off 2,500 employees, the majority of them nonunionized ground workers. Those layoffs prompted leaders of the 8,000 fleet service workers, who load and unload the planes, and 9,400 reservation and ticket agents to vow to unionize this year. The two groups are the largest nonunionized contingents among USAir's 45,500 employees.

Mr. Callahan predicted the airline's move this week to hire more part-time agents will help the Steelworkers' efforts to unionize the ticket and reservation agents. "This move shows that without union representation the company is going to try to continue to move toward low-paying, part-time work," he said.

The Steelworkers have asked the National Mediation Board to schedule an election for the agents late this summer. No date has been set.

Many of the airline's ticket agents and reservations clerks already are part-time. Depending on when they were hired and how much seniority they have, many receive benefits.

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