US Air to raise pay for 9,500

Workers have gone without increase for seven years

Airlines

June 02, 1999|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

US Airways said yesterday that it will give raises to 9,500 passenger service workers who have gone seven years without a pay increase.

The result will be 13.7 percent raises for every employee, meaning a 15-year employee will earn an hourly salary of $20.33, effective immediately. In all its union negotiations, US Airways is offering workers parity plus 1 percent of salaries at the nation's four largest airlines.

The carrier's move came four days after a federal appeals court overturned the 1997 election giving the Communications Workers of America the right to represent the workers -- and two weeks after an emotional annual meeting at which workers protested long stretches without raises as executives were awarded incentive plans potentially worth millions.

At the annual meeting in Charlotte, N.C., US Airways Chairman Stephen Wolf and President Rakesh Gangwal agreed to drop out of the incentive plan and agreed that employee raises were overdue.

Yesterday, they said in a statement that raises are "not only deserved but necessary, long overdue and critical in order for the company to operate effectively and fairly."

Wolf and Gangwal took over management of the airline in 1996, but labor law precluded them from adjusting salaries because of union organizing efforts, followed by a court battle over the organizing campaign.

"We do not believe the company can wait any longer to make necessary changes," they said yesterday.

They said the airline's previous management imposed harsh conditions, such as pay freezes and loss of vacation time.

Despite financial pressure, the conditions were "inappropriate, given the fact that the company was unable to secure similar concessions from other employees," they said.

Besides pay increases, US Airways announced restored benefits and seniority accrual for part-time employees; restored vacation, holiday and sick pay; new overtime procedures; increased uniform allowances and job protection in case of subcontracting.

The CWA had negotiated most of those improvements and intends to continue to represent the workers, 85 percent of whom have signed union cards, said Candace Johnson, a union spokeswoman.

"We think the company is trying to take credit for improvements we've negotiated and hoping to delay worker efforts to gain a real voice and real representation," she said. "The company would not have implemented these changes if members hadn't spent months mobilizing and pressing for them."

Passenger service supervisor Danny Carter, whose remarks at the annual meeting provoked a sympathetic response from Wolf, said he wonders whether that played a role in yesterday's announcement.

"Maybe for the first time Stephen Wolf recognized there was a human side to the things going on, that people were suffering at the company he was running," he said.

Pub Date: 6/02/99

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