US Airways, union have tentative pact

| Thursday, March 13, 2008

US Airways and its aircraft mechanics union reached a tentative agreement Wednesday on a three-year contract covering 3,300 mechanics and related maintenance workers, including about 750 in Pittsburgh.

If ratified, the agreement with the International Association of Machinists would be the second major labor agreement to be reached by US Airways since its merger with America West Airlines in September 2005.

The merged airline and the union for 7,500 passenger-service and reservations agents reached a labor agreement in June 2006. The carrier also has reached agreement with the union for hundreds of flight dispatchers, engineers and instructors.

The IAM labor pact would raise the 800 former America West mechanics and related maintenance workers' pay to that of their 2,500 US Airways counterparts in the East, effective upon ratification.

Additionally, IAM members' pay would increase across the board by 10 percent, effective immediately upon ratification, said union spokesman Joe Tiberi. After that, workers' pay would increase 3 percent each January for three years, starting with Jan. 1, 2009.

The carrier still lacks new contracts for flight attendants, pilots and bag handlers. Those negotiations have drawn on for more than two years. The pilots are enmeshed in a representation dispute between the incumbent Air Line Pilots Association and the challenger, the US Airline Pilots Association.

US Airways CEO Doug Parker called the mechanics union agreement "an important milestone" for the airline.

The IAM agreement would raise a starting mechanic's pay from the current $16.10 an hour to $19.35 an hour in January 2011. The wages of a top-paid mechanic would increase from the current $23.69 an hour to $28.47 an hour in 2011.

"This agreement provides stability and security for our members at a time when the airline industry is in turmoil," IAM general vice president Robert Roach Jr. said. He noted the labor pact also would improve job security and pension benefits.

Under federal law, airline industry contracts do not expire but become "amendable." That is, employees continue under existing agreements until a new pact is reached and ratified.

The IAM, which recommends that members ratify the tentative agreement, has not yet set a timetable for voting on the deal. It would become amendable on Dec. 31, 2011.

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