The AFA Alaska-Virgin America Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) just wrapped up this week’s session of merger negotiations, our fifth so far. We met with management from Tuesday, October 24th through Thursday, October 26th in Seattle, WA. Representing management: Vice President of Labor Relations Greg Mays, Vice President of Alaska Airlines and Virgin America Inflight & Call Center/Guest Services Jeff Butler, Managing Director of Labor Relations-Air Elizabeth Ryan and Virgin America Manager of Labor Emily Kimmel. Managing Director of Virgin America Inflight Val Jenkins also attended on the first day.
Merger negotiations survey
The JNC thanks everyone who completed the merger negotiations survey. The survey received a healthy response, and the majority of the feedback was very targeted and consistent. Although the JNC realizes everyone is interested in knowing the objectives of the group as a whole, AFA generally does not publish results from negotiations surveys for strategic reasons. We can tell you, however, that there were no surprises. If it makes strategic sense for the JNC to divulge more in the future, be assured that we will be as transparent as possible with you.
The JNC used the survey responses as a springboard in our talks with management regarding your expectations for these negotiations and for improvements to the AFA Alaska contract. Remember that any improvements to the contract will accrue to all pre-merger Virgin America and pre-merger Alaska Airlines Flight Attendants. The JNC felt encouraged by our initial discussions with management regarding the general themes outlined in your survey responses. These issues will remain hot topics in our continued sessions.
Very busy session…
Otherwise, It was a very busy session and a considerable number of complex provisions were discussed. Because policies and procedures are so unequal and different between the employee groups, crafting provisions that allow for a smooth and equitable transition takes time. Additionally, we are challenged by the constraints of the various Alaska Airlines information technology systems.
The JNC is pleased to report that we put the finishing touches on a letter of agreement (LOA) that separates reliability and performance discipline into two independent tracks for Virgin America (VX) Flight Attendants. Council 35 VX President Melissa Osborne has been advocating for separation of the tracks since AFA was certified as the collective bargaining representative at VX earlier this year, so executing the LOA is the culmination of her continued advocacy. Beginning November 1, 2017, the administration of attendance and performance discipline at VX will essentially mirror that at Alaska. Council 35 is planning an update to VX Flight Attendants in the near future regarding the details.
In partnership with the Master Executive Council (MEC), the JNC is very close to cementing a letter of agreement regarding bidding, trading and pay for the Airbus transition training that will occur in the second half of 2018 for Alaska Airlines Flight Attendants. Boeing transition training for Virgin America Flight Attendants is covered under existing work rules by default, but the JNC is intending to discuss the provisions with management at our next session.
The parties spent considerable time developing a process for the VX Flight Attendants to transition over to Alaska sick leave accrual. The two sick leave programs are currently very different, and the VX Flight Attendants would be significantly disadvantaged if there were a simple ‘turn-key’ cutover to the Alaska sick leave contract provisions. Work on this will continue next session.
Keep in mind that 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 AFA nor management believes that the entire contract is open for discussion. Discussions are focusing on a short list of items. All the provisions in the AFA Alaska contract (scheduled pay raises, etc.) will continue in force for pre-merger Alaska Airlines Flight Attendants; all the provisions in the Virgin America work rules will remain in effect for pre-merger Virgin America Flight Attendants unless modified and/or superseded by the AFA Virgin America letters of agreement.
Our next merger negotiations session is scheduled for November 7-9.
Your JNC – MEC President Jeffrey Peterson, Jennifer Wise MacColl, Jamie Cogen, Lindsey Steele and AFA Senior Staff Negotiator Paula Mastrangelo