This message is for pre-merger Alaska Flight Attendants
[Note: This update is a long one, so you might want to save reading this until you have some down time. We apologize for the length, but it’s been awhile since the last Open Time update, so there is a lot to report.]
AFA Negotiating Committee and management started another round of negotiations to achieve a new Open Time system
The AFA Negotiating Committee and Alaska Airlines management met the week before Thanksgiving to once again negotiate a new Open Time (OT) system. Representing management: Vice President of Inflight & Call Center Services Jeff Butler, Vice President of Labor Relations Greg Mays, Managing Director of Labor Relations Elizabeth Ryan, Director of Inflight Crew Scheduling Denia Pisia, Inflight Operations Performance Manager Mike Link, Manager of Flight Crew Systems Support Sue Rawlings, and Financial Planning and Analysis Manager Brittany Schaub.
As you may recall, our current Open Time trading system was negotiated on a trial basis. AFA terminated the trial in summer 2016 based on overwhelming membership feedback. Under our collective bargaining agreement, this meant that the parties had to return to the OT system used in the previous contract (referred to as “Back to Book”) while negotiating a new system. Reverting Back to Book was understood to be dictated by IT limitations pursuant to CBA §12.F.9.a [Exchange of Sequences]. The Negotiating Committee (NC) and management negotiated several times in the fall of 2016 and the spring of 2017 and reached an agreement in concept for a new Open Time system; however, the Master Executive Council (MEC) ultimately decided to not send it out for membership ratification primarily because management would not agree to implementation guarantees for programming the new system.
More about Back to Book
All parties agreed back in 2014 that if the Open Time Trial were ended, programming Back to Book would take time because we knew that the entire Company was being transitioned to a new crew management system, which included a new crew tracking (scheduling) system. That is why AFA agreed to the language in CBA §12.F.9.a: “If reverting, the timeline for rolling back will be dictated by IT limitations.” Once the OT Trial was actually ended in summer 2016, the crew management system vendor Jeppesen was insistent that there were not sufficient resources available to program Back to Book until transition to the new system was complete in autumn 2016. Alaska Airlines management concurred with that assessment. Unfortunately, the transition to the new system was subsequently delayed until the end of January 2017.
Then Alaska Air Group announced the acquisition of Virgin America in spring 2016 and its intent to eventually merge Virgin America into the Alaska Airlines operation. The merger further complicated what management and Jeppesen is attributing to “IT limitations.” AFA filed a contractual grievance, and management subsequently sustained that grievance, which means management agrees it has a contractual responsibility to direct Jeppesen to program Back to Book. However, the estimated projection for actually achieving Back to Book keeps getting pushed farther and farther out into the future.
Yes, AFA could attempt to achieve a faster programming of Back to Book through the grievance process, but any outcome through mediation or arbitration is far from certain and can take much longer than is desirable here.
Negotiating changes to the current Open Time system
Recently, management asked the MEC if we would consider having the Negotiating Committee negotiate changes to the current Open Time system instead of simply going Back to Book and hashing it out from there. The MEC agreed to give it a try for at least a couple negotiating sessions, and that is where we are now. Why did the MEC agree to that?
The old (Back to Book) Open Time system was not universally liked. In fact, there was fairly widespread dissatisfaction with it, which is why AFA sought to negotiate something else during the 2011-2014 negotiations in the first place. If the OT Trial were ended, reverting Back to Book was intended only as a safety net (“the devil you know versus the devil you don’t know”) while the Negotiating Committee negotiated a new system. Back to Book was never intended as a permanent solution, and the MEC believes going Back to Book will not make everyone—or perhaps not even most—happy.
To make matters worse, Alaska Airlines management and Jeppesen are currently estimating the “go live” date for Back to Book as sometime in mid-2019 or potentially even later. Why? According to Jeppesen, this is because of the complexities of recreating the old Back to Book system (formerly in eMaestro) in the new Jeppesen Crew Access. Alaska Airlines management is saying the process is further complicated by IT limitations resulting from the merger. AFA is not agreeing to this crazy estimate or to the underlying reasoning, but rather the MEC and the Negotiating Committee are simply passing this information along to you in full transparency.
AFA and management believe that by tweaking the current Open Time system it is possible we may deliver a new OT system to you that would result in higher overall satisfaction for the membership and sooner than going Back to Book. The Negotiating Committee made it clear from the outset that certain features of the current system had to remain intact, such as our ability to straight drop. (The Back to Book system would not allow straight drops.) We also intend to allow up-trading, a much-improved ability for day-for-day trading and the elimination of trading codes. At the same time, the Negotiating Committee recognizes management has an operation to run and that too many uncovered trips in OT make it very difficult to do so. It is definitely a balancing act to ensure all flights are covered while affording flight attendants meaningful schedule flexibility.
Negotiating session report
That said, we had a productive session. Jeff Butler seems motivated to get this done, and management brought an IT expert to the table for the first time. The Negotiating Committee made a proposal that we believe meets the needs and expectations of our members, and the NC was pleased to learn that management thought the proposal seemed like a good foundation. Management made a reasonable counter proposal, and the NC provided collaborative feedback to their counter. Management is taking time to cost the latest proposal and determine what it might mean for the operation.
The parties have agreed to reconvene this week December 5-7, and the Negotiating Committee is cautiously optimistic that we may reach an agreement this session. We will update you again following the session. Remember that any agreement in concept will first go to the MEC to determine if the agreement will be released to the membership for ratification. The MEC has repeatedly pledged that if the MEC approves a tentative agreement (TA), the TA will go out membership ratification so that you will have the final say in the matter.
Your MEC – Jeffrey Peterson, Brian Palmer, Linda Christou, Lisa Pinkston, Terry Taylor, Mario de’Medici, Melissa Osborne, Tim Green and Brice McGee
Your Negotiating Committee – MEC President Jeffrey Peterson, Kristy Stratton, Lisa Pinkston, Christina Frees, and AFA Senior Staff Attorney Kimberley Chaput