Seniority Update April 26, 2016

April 26, 2016

The merged seniority list is compiled as reported to AFA members since the merger of United/Continental/Continental Micronesia was first announced in 2010. The Constitution is clear and backed up by federal law. Nothing has changed and nothing can change about your seniority protections.

The Seniority Merger Integration Committee (SMIC) has done the work necessary for implementation of a merged seniority list once we have a ratified joint contract. The committee continues its work until implementation since the list continues to evolve with new hires or various reasons that Flight Attendants exit the seniority list. The list is posted upon implementation.

The Seniority Merger Integration Committee (SMIC) consists of representatives from each of our pre-merger airlines. The AFA-CWA Constitution and Bylaws (C&B), which is also reinforced by U.S. law, provides clear instruction on the committee role and authority in merging the three seniority lists to be implemented at the point of a ratified, single Flight Attendant contract at United Airlines.

The work of the committee is transparent as defined by the Constitution, although the committee discussions and the list itself remain confidential until the point of ratification. There is no mystery, however, since the Constitution is very straight-forward for the process and methodology utilized to merge the list.

The principle of ‘date-of-hire’ is codified in the constitution to integrate the list according to the value that what someone brought to the merger is what they will have once the merger is complete. The only two (2) items constitutionally required for resolution by the committee include:

methodology for integration of same day seniority dates, and
applying credit for initial training while maintaining relative seniority on each respective list.
The committee will report out on this work and the on-going work required (new hires, retirements, etc.) up to implementation at the time of ratification.

A flood at Continental in the late 90’s destroyed employment data and made the work of the committee challenging, but through historical research, verified documentation recovered from individuals and the assistance of statistical professionals the committee has been able to determine necessary adjustments for initial training. The training adjustments will be applied in compliance with the Constitution.

The committee will report to the Joint MEC when they are in session at the end of May.

‘Date-of-Hire’ Principle Used, ‘Bidding Seniority’ Actual Term

Section X.C.2.a. of the C&B ensures that, “…the ‘seniority date’ of a Flight Attendant shall be the date from which each Flight Attendant accrues competitive (bidding) seniority as a Flight Attendant as of the date of the merger agreement between the affected airlines.” The term “date-of-hire” is common terminology among Flight Attendants and is the principle contained within the C&B. This term describes our principle but not the actual wording that refers to bidding seniority.

Prior Integrations, Contractual Requirements and Training Days

The SMIC may not alter former seniority integrations. There have been court awards, arbitrated decisions and settlements that have determined seniority dates and established the relative order of Flight Attendants at all three subsidiaries. These prior rulings and decisions are binding upon the Union, so we are not empowered to make changes to these seniority dates.

Additionally, we must follow the terms of the contracts. Twice a year, the seniority section of each contract provides an opportunity to challenge the seniority list should there be a discrepancy in placement on each individual seniority list. The AFA Seniority Merger Integration Process does not provide for adjustments to seniority dates that should otherwise be handled through a grievance.

In fact, the C&B strictly prohibits changes, other than to adjust for initial Flight Attendant training. Section X.C.3.c. of the C&B states, “the only adjustment to seniority date as defined in Section C.2.a., being reconciliation of differences in policies on the respective carriers relating to seniority accrual for training days so that each Flight Attendant on the merged seniority list receives credit for her/his training days.”

U.S. Law Requires Enforcement of AFA Seniority Integration Policy

AFA’s seniority policy is also reinforced by US law. After the TWA Flight Attendants were stapled to the bottom of the seniority list at American, our union advocated for a change to the law that would provide a “fair and equitable” seniority integration for all airline workers affected by a merger. Again, fair and equitable is a process, but it does not ensure a “fair” outcome.

If seniority is left up to an arbitrator, all arguments and positions made by the parties involved will eventually be decided by someone who has no claim or stake in the end result. That is why we ensured that the law would also protect our union’s seniority integration policy. The McCaskill-Bond law states:

“if the same collective bargaining agent represents the combining crafts or classes at each of the covered air carriers, that collective bargaining agent’s internal policies regarding integration, if any, will not be affected by and will supersede the requirements of this section;”

This law affirms that our AFA seniority integration policy is the process that must be used when AFA is the representative of Flight Attendants at the merged airline.

AFA Seniority Integration Policy Used in Each Mega-Merger

In both the Delta and American mergers, AFA’s merger policy set the standard for Flight Attendant seniority integration. At Delta, management knew that Flight Attendants would have one more big reason to vote for a union unless management provided the same seniority security that AFA’s policy would provide. The Northwest and Delta lists were integrated according to AFA’s seniority integration principle.

AFA had the cleanest seniority list in the industry at US Airways, where many mergers took place based on AFA’s seniority integration principle. Further, our union had gained seniority protections under the law. In the American merger, APFA agreed to a seniority integration that mirrors AFA’s constitutional merger policy, protecting both pre-merger US Airways and American Flight Attendants.

Our merger policy was put in place nearly 25 years ago following mergers where the issue of seniority did nothing more than create division. This division plays out at a time when it is especially critical for Flight Attendants to stand together in unity. In mergers, our focus needs to be on making our seniority count with the best job security, pay, benefits, work rules and quality of life at the merged airline. Our policy provides a defined and transparent procedure for seniority integration.

The fate of our seniority should never hinge on a corporate decision that is outside of our control. With a detailed process in black and white we can focus our attention on our unity and work towards a single contract that reflects our valuable contributions to the airline.

Seniority Integration Committee Role and Responsibility

The SMIC is responsible for:

  1. compiling the necessary employment data for all Flight Attendants from their respective airlines; and
  2. working as a full committee to compile a single Flight Attendant seniority list.

The SMIC is charged with resolving only two items:

  1. determining any necessary adjustment for initial training days in an effort to provide consistent treatment for seniority application during initial Flight Attendant training based on data acquired; and
  2. determining a consistent methodology for integrating same day seniority dates.

In every case, per Section X.C.3.c. of the C&B "the relative position of the flight attendants on their respective seniority lists shall be maintained and the merger representatives shall not have the authority to alter the relative position of any flight attendant to others on her/his own list for any reason."  In other words, the existing order or placement on each respective list must remain the same, i.e., no one "leap-frogs" over another.

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