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US Airways offers severance to 300 nonunion workers at flight operations center in Moon

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By Thomas Olson
Thursday, March 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

US Airways has offered severance packages to 300 nonunion workers at its flight operations center in Moon, apparently indicating that their jobs could be eliminated in the merger with American Airlines.

The airline on Wednesday confirmed the severance offer was made to the local group and to 5,000 other nonunion workers across US Airways whose jobs may be affected by the merger. It is the first acknowledgement by the company of possible job losses because of the deal.

The airlines have faced pressure from politicians and others to preserve local jobs, but US Airways CEO Doug Parker, who will become chief executive of the merged carrier, has indicated that the flight operation center could be relocated to a larger facility in Texas.

The $25 million facility in Moon coordinates the airline's more than 3,000 daily flights systemwide. It employs 600 workers — including 300 unionized employees.

The packages to the nonunion workers were circulated to employees on Feb. 14, when the US Airways-American Airlines merger was announced. The pending combination jeopardizes the Moon complex because American has a control center at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Parker told a group of pilots and flight attendants in Charlotte on March 20 that “you don't need, nor do you want” two flight operations control centers.

“Dallas has a bigger center, and it's more likely than not that (workers) would move there,” the CEO said.

A final decision on where to locate the merged carriers' control center could be two years off, Parker said. But he added that if he “had to bet right now,” US Airways jobs in Moon “would move to Dallas.”

When the deal was announced, Parker said the merger would not result in “any major layoffs.” The merger partners expect to cut their costs by $150 million but have no identified those savings.

The deal would make the world's largest airline by combining US Airways, America's fifth-largest, and American, the third-largest. The deal is expected to be completed in the summer quarter, but airline operations will take another couple of years to integrate.

Based in Tempe, Ariz., US Airways employs 31,200 people, including 5,300 nonunion workers. Severance terms for the 25,900 unionized workers are contained in their collective bargaining agreements.

US Airways received subsidies from Pennsylvania and Allegheny County governments in 2007, when construction began on the facility. Charlotte and Phoenix had offered incentives to win the project. The airline said it received only $4 million of the $16.25 million in subsidies — a figure that was confirmed by the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

The control center, which opened in October 2008, received from the state $1.25 million in infrastructure development grants, plus $2 million in opportunity grants and $750,000 in tax credits for retaining 450 jobs and creating 150 more jobs at the site.

The other $12.25 million in subsidies “were never disbursed by taxpayers, nor received by the airline” because the carrier did not formally apply for them because of questions about the project's eligibility, US Airways spokesman Todd Lehmacher said.

“At that point, we just wanted to move on and get the job done, so we paid cash,” Lehmacher said.

Thomas Olson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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