US Airways and union reach tentative contract

US Airways and the union for fleet service workers reached a tentative agreement on Friday that brings all 7,900 employees of the former America West Airlines and the old US Airways under one contract.

The agreement -- which raises wages and boosts pensions -- follows similar, unified labor contracts for US Airways reservation and passenger-service agents reached in June 2006, and for flight dispatchers and instructors in December. Unions representing flight attendants, pilots and aircraft mechanics are still negotiating toward unified contracts.

International Association of Machinist members will be voting on yesterday's agreement over the next three to four weeks, with results expected Sept. 5. If ratified, the contract would become effective within the next 30 days and become amendable on Dec. 31, 2011.

In Pittsburgh, US Airways employs about 342 bag handlers and workers who clean and restock airplanes who would be covered by yesterday's labor agreement. The airline employs about 2,800 locally overall.

"We were able to do more than just combine the two airlines' contracts. This tentative agreement ensures our members benefit as US Airways charts its course for the future," said Randy Canale, president of District 141 of the IAM.

The tentative contract would:

Reduce three pay scales into one common scale, with some steps receiving wage increases of as much as 22 percent.

Increase the airline's contributions to a defined-benefit pension plan to $1.15 per full-time worker hour as of January 2011, from the current $1.05.

Put added restrictions on US Airways' right to outsource jobs.

Extend health coverage for those on medical leave due to job-related injury to nine months from the current four months.

The current contracts -- for 4,900 workers in the East and 3,000 in the West -- become amendable in December 2009. To avoid strikes, federal law dictates that airline-worker contracts become amendable, rather than simply expire.

"Today's announcement moves us another step closer to a unified airline and our goal of bringing our remaining groups to single labor agreements," said US Airways CEO Doug Parker.

Negotiations had been going on since early 2006 but advanced more quickly toward an agreement after a National Mediation Board mediator intervened in talks Aug. 1, airline and union officials said.

The IAM also represents about 2,900 US Airways mechanics and related aircraft maintenance workers, whose labor talks continue.


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