United To Outsource 70 Ramp, Other Airport Jobs At Buffalo

July 14--United Airlines will outsource jobs at Buffalo Niagara International Airport to a vendor, a cost-cutting move affecting about 70 employees.

United is taking this step at a dozen U.S. airports. The switch takes effect Oct. 1, involving employees such as baggage handlers and ticket and gate agents, said James Carlson, a spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents them.

Christen David, a United spokeswoman, called the outsourcing "a difficult decision" but said the wages of United's major competitors at smaller airports "are in line with local market wages." United reported a first-quarter net loss of $609 million.

Carlson called the decision to outsource the jobs "bad business ... They are not focused on their service and product quality," he said. "What they're focused on is a race to the bottom."

The impending outsourcing creates uncertainty for United employees at the Buffalo airport. The vendor, not the airline, will choose whom to employ to provide services to the airline, at what is expected to be lower pay. PrimeFlight Aviation Services, based in Tennessee, will be United's vendor at the Buffalo airport.

A PrimeFlight representative could not be reached to comment on the company's plans. On its website, PrimeFlight says it provides ground handling, aircraft and terminal services at 45 airports in the United States and Caribbean, with more than 5,000 employees. Around the country, PrimeFlight and other vendors provide aviation-related services to several carriers.

The IAMAW's contract with United provides some job security via seniority for its members at the Buffalo airport, though they would have to relocate to other cities. "All the people in 12 (airport) stations have been offered employment because of our contract," Carlson said. "However, we don't agree with what United is doing."

Workers might find opportunities with United at the Dulles, Honolulu, Phoenix and Denver airports, where the airline is "insourcing" jobs, David said. The contract also contains severance options for employees, she said.

Carlson said the outsourcing diminishes the economic impact of the United workers' middle-class jobs. "That hurts the Buffalo economy," he said.

In May, United ranked fifth among carriers for the number of people boarding planes at the Buffalo airport, with 12 percent, according to data from the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. United also ranked fifth in total flights in May among carriers at the Buffalo airport, with 16 percent.

email: mglynn@buffnews.com

Copyright 2014 - The Buffalo News, N.Y.

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