Spirit flight attendants picket outside Miramar HQ to get contract resolved

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Jan. 27--A group of more than 50 Spirit Airlines unionized flight attendants and their supporters staged an informational picket outside the carrier's Miramar headquarters early Wednesday to try to revitalize lagging contract negotiations.

Dressed in green to show their solidarity, many held up signs with slgans like "Contract now or chaos later" and "We're ready to go the distance."

The unionized flight attendants -- represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA -- and the airline have been in negotiations since 2007.

When direct talks failed to produce "a fair contract," the union in March 2009 appealed to the National Mediation Board, a federal agency. The board has been supervising talks since then, Spirit flight attendants' union representative Todd St. Pierre said Wednesday.

The group is seeking improvements in work rules, including the amount of monthly hours allotted, vacation time, bereavement leave, rest periods between trips and better quality hotels on layovers, St. Pierre said.

The airline's nearly 700 flight attendants -- most based in Fort Lauderdale -- are also seeking a pay increase, although pay is not as big an issue as it was with the Spirit pilots who went on strike last June, he said.

Both sides are expected back at the negotiation table Jan. 31.

"We're hoping that they make better proposals and take us seriously. They keep dragging their feet," St. Pierre said.

Flight attendants walking the picket line Wednesday chanted in unison: "Spirit Airlines stop your greed, a contract is what we need," and called on management to "do what's right, negotiate and settle this fight."

Spirit spokeswoman Misty Pinson said Wednesday the company is committed to coming to "an agreement that's fair for everyone."

That means a contract that rewards the flight attendants for their contributions and one that helps promote company growth as well, Pinson said. "They [flight attendants] do a great job for the company and its customers every day."

Arlene Satchell can be reached at asatchell@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4209. Follow her on Twitter.com @TheSatchreport.

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