AA Worker Seniority Rights Trampled In Reshuffle,
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Law360, Washington (January 26, 2016, 2:33 PM ET) -- A union representing American Airlines workers asked a Texas federal judge on Monday to block the airline’s recent labor reorganization, saying the move violated labor agreements by allowing junior employees to take sought-after positions and forcing senior workers to relocate.
American Airlines Inc. ignored its past procedures and collective bargaining agreement requirements for reducing its workforce following the October dissolution of a joint venture withRolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd. that eliminated between 400 and 500 positions for workers who had been assigned to the venture, according to a complaint that Transport Workers Union of America, Local 567, filed Monday.
Instead of allowing senior employees who were no longer needed in the Rolls-Royce venture to take positions held by more junior workers at other sites — as required by two CBAs — the airline allowed the junior workers to stay in their jobs and left the more senior members to choose from less sought-after positions, the union said.
American first offered an exit package to affected workers, but was still left with “hundreds” of excess employees in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, TWU said. Under the terms of the CBA, the most senior remaining joint venture workers should have been able to select new positions in the same labor category from a list of vacancies and positions held by more junior co-workers throughout the country, the union said.
Instead, American allowed the junior employees to remain at their jobs, even at “plumb locations” like the Dallas-Forth Worth Airport and a nearby maintenance base. Those with more seniority were then made to either relocate to Los Angeles, Miami, Boston or other locations, or accept the exit package, the union said.
“As a result, the concept of seniority has been turned on its head, with some of the most junior employees now in positions that should have been awarded to senior employees,” the union said. “The wrong employees are selling their homes, pulling their children out of school, their spouses are resigning their employment and bidding farewell to their local extended family and friends.”
In a three-count complaint, the union asked for declaratory judgment that American has committed and continues to commit “systemic violations of the parties’ negotiated grievance and arbitration procedures.”
The union asked for an emergency preliminary injunction and a final injunction to halt any further moves while binding arbitration — which could take 18 months to reach resolution — is pending. If the airline is allowed to continue, TWU members will be immediately and irreparably harmed, while an injunction would merely maintain the status quo and would inflict little pain on American, the union said.
A permanent injunction would preserve the arbitrator’s power to decide the case on the merits without any intervening action by the airline, TWU said.
A spokesman for American declined to comment Tuesday. An attorney for TWU did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
TWU is represented by Amanda L. Reichek of Cole Reichek PLLC.
Counsel information for American was unavailable Tuesday.
The case is Transport Workers Union of America AFL-CIO Local 567 v. American Airlines Inc., case number 3:16-cv-00206 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
--Editing by Philip Shea.
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