Sept. 19--American Airlines could lay off as many as 400 more workers at its Tulsa maintenance and engineering center in early 2014, even after cutting about the same number of employees within the past year.
During a meeting this week between maintenance workers and company management, union leaders were told that American could have 400 more workers than needed by early next year, Transport Workers Union Local 514 President Dale Danker said Wednesday.
"As we went through the presentation, the company information showed we should prepare for a surplus of no more than 400 positions around the first quarter of 2014," Danker wrote in a post to union members.
Union leadership confirmed the potential cuts in a phone call with the Tulsa World.
A spokeswoman for the airline, Andrea Huguely, later said in a statement: "American's operational needs for 2014 are still being assessed as we revitalize our fleet and complete several aircraft modification initiatives. While no final decisions have been made, we will let our people know of any changes at the appropriate time."
News of the potential cuts comes as American remakes its fleet with newer, more fuel-efficient planes that will require less maintenance in the coming years.
The company might need to cut work at the Tulsa base even more next summer, on a temporary basis, and the union is trying to determine whether employees can use vacation time to help mitigate the reductions.
"As many of you are aware, as the older fleets are retired and new aircraft are brought on board, we are faced with the challenge of dealing with the required maintenance need declining year over year," Danker told the union members.
American Airlines is Tulsa's largest private employer, with about 6,300 workers at its primary maintenance facility at Tulsa International Airport.
The union-management meeting this week included Bill Collins, vice president of base maintenance for American and chief of the Tulsa facility.
The airline is spending about $38 billion in efforts to revamp its fleet with newer and more fuel-efficient planes. That plan includes phasing out the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft, a staple of American's fleet and the work done at the Tulsa facility.
The layoff estimates come as American works through the final stages of a bankruptcy process that began in November 2011 and prepares to fight a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit aimed at blocking a planned merger with US Airways.
A bankruptcy judge in New York approved American's bankruptcy reorganization last week, but the plan is entirely dependent on the merger. If the Justice Department is successful in blocking the tie-up, the company will need a to write a new plan.
American Airlines cut about 400 Tulsa positions in late 2012 and early 2013, in addition to 709 employees in Tulsa who took early retirements.
American and parent company AMR Corp. once planned to cut as many as 2,000 jobs in Tulsa before negotiating a new contract with unions that included the freezing of employee pensions.
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380
Copyright 2013 - Tulsa World, Okla.
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