The AFA Alaska-Virgin America Joint Negotiating Committee just finished several days of collective bargaining with management; we met from Tuesday, August 8th through Thursday, August 10th in Seattle, WA. This is our second merger negotiations session, with the first held back in June. (See “AFA Alaska-Virgin America Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) Prepares to Meet with Management This Week” for more information.) Representing management: Vice President of Labor Relations Greg Mays, Outgoing Vice President of Alaska Airlines Inflight & Call Center Services Andy Schneider (and now incoming vice president of People), Managing Director of Labor Relations-Air Elizabeth Ryan and Virgin America Manager of Labor Emily Kimmel.
As AFA indicated in our Merger Negotiations Session #1 Update – June 2017, merger negotiations are a different process than regular negotiations. These talks are not under the jurisdiction of the National Mediation Board or Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act, and neither side believes that the entire contract is open for discussion. Discussions are focusing on a short list of items, and all the provisions in the AFA Alaska contract (scheduled pay raises, etc.) will continue in force.
Virgin America JFK Flight Attendant Base Closure
While the JNC discussed several transition items, the bulk of our time was spent reviewing the Virgin America (VX) Flight Attendant JFK base closure packet with management. VX Director of Inflight Valerie Jenkins and Inflight Project Manager John Maze joined us for much of those discussions by conference call. AFA Council 35 Virgin America President Melissa Osborne also actively participated by phone.
The JNC and President Osborne asked many questions and the parties exchanged a lot of information as we advocated for the JFK Flight Attendants. The JNC and President Osborne were able to achieve some modifications to the relocation package offered by management and to clarify language in the related Q&A document. The parties agreed it would be best for management to hold off on publishing some details about relocation travel until next week. This is in order to give management more time to fully develop the program and to consider several requests by AFA and our members.
Virgin America Flight Attendant Commuter Policy
Management and the JNC drafted a letter of agreement (LOA) that allows for a trial implementation of a commuter policy for Virgin America Flight Attendants beginning in October. (See “[VX] Virgin America Flight Attendant Work Rule Improvements – Part 3” for more information.) The parties used the “Get Going Policy” from the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) Tentative Agreement as a template with some slight modifications, coupled with a third reserve availability period (RAP) from 8am – 8pm for Short Call Reserve (SCR). Management needed some extra time past the end of our session yesterday to review the final draft, but we do not anticipate this to take more than another workday or so, which will take us into next week. Once again, AFA would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the efforts of our sisters and brothers on the TWU VX negotiating team for providing the basis for the VX F/A Commuter Policy LOA.
Prior to implementation of this LOA, AFA will poll the Virgin America Flight Attendants to determine if the majority wishes to ‘test drive’ a commuter policy that is paired with a third SCR RAP. The initial survey will help guide the Master Executive Council officers in their decision whether or not to ratify the LOA. If we do trial the Commuter Policy and third SCR RAP, AFA will again poll the VX F/As in November to gauge membership satisfaction with the trial. AFA then has an opportunity to end the trial just in case it proves to be unpopular.
Information regarding the survey and the full text of the VX F/A Commuter Policy Letter of Agreement is now anticipated early next week, which is just slightly later than originally indicated in the last commuter policy update. AFA will continue our efforts to get this out to the Virgin America Flight Attendants as soon as possible.
Transition Issues Discussed
The JNC received several responses from management on prior information requests. We also had a very helpful and productive meeting with Alaska Director of Retirement Services Chrystie Dickens and Retirement Benefits Analyst Jaime Smalley to discuss the intricacies of merging the Alaska (AS) and Virgin America Flight Attendant 401(k) plans. Merging the two is a complicated multi-step process that must be completed within the guidelines of IRS regulations and other applicable laws. Finally, we consulted with Virgin America Crew Payroll Supervisor Peter Silberstein regarding the differences between VX and AS vacation accrual.
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This negotiations session set the parties up for getting into more detailed discussions about specific transitional items next time. In the interim, each side has ‘homework assignments’ to make the time between sessions more productive. Merger Negotiations Session #3 is scheduled for September 12-14, 2017, in Seattle, WA.
Finally, the JFK Flight Attendants were constantly in our thoughts this week. Our hearts go out to each and every one of you, and the JNC will continue to seek any means possible to reduce the impact on you and all your families affected by this base closure.
Your JNC – MEC President Jeffrey Peterson, Jennifer Wise MacColl, Jamie Cogen, Lindsey Steele and AFA Senior Staff Negotiator Paula Mastrangelo