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Union head wants airline to ease up

| Thursday, Feb. 17, 2005

Alarmed by declining morale among US Airways workers battered by cutbacks, the head of the airline's flight attendants union plans to meet with management today to attempt to relax disciplinary policies -- and flight attendants.

Teddy Xidas, president of the US Airways unit of the Association of Flight Attendants and a Pittsburgh-based flight attendant, plans to meet with Senior Vice President Jerry Glass and other employee relations executives at the airline's Arlington, Va., headquarters.

"I am hoping for a positive outcome," Xidas said. The aim is for an amnesty policy that would forgive some infractions for illness or tardiness, and possibly reclaim some jobs.

"Basically, we're looking to see if the company would relax some disciplinary policies," she said. "I think some of them are just too draconian."

For example, a flight attendant who calls in sick four times in a year will be terminated. And reporting to a flight base just 10 minutes late incurs an infraction that counts toward termination.

US Airways flight attendants quit, retired or were terminated in record numbers in the past two months, Xidas said. Of the 106 who left the company in January, 26 quit and nine were fired, which is double normal levels in a given month.

The 152 flight attendants who quit or retired early in December amounted to roughly double the rate in the fall months. Just two dozen a month quit or retired early last spring, she said.

Flight attendants reluctantly approved $150 million in annual concessions in early January. And their ranks in Western Pennsylvania have fallen to about 950 today from roughly 1,400 a year ago.

When union leaders met with US Airways management two weeks ago for a regular update on the bankrupt carrier's transformation plan, discussion included morale. The issue heated up after management blamed workers' sick calls for a crush of lost bags and canceled flights at Philadelphia International Airport over the Christmas holiday. Federal investigators continue looking into the causes, including computer and other operational glitches.

"If they are going to talk about morale, we should see something done about it," Xidas said.

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