Q1: Why is the agreement so long? Why not make it a year to get the processes in place and then revisit it later? With the cost of living going up in almost every base city, why chain us to an agreement until 2021?
Q2: What are the benefits to AFA/flight attendants in extending our contract? What is the benefit to the company? Who asked for the extension? AFA? Company? Or mutual?
A: The JNC did not go into merger negotiations with the intent of negotiating a mid-term JCBA. We went in focused on securing sensible and fair transition provisions for the L-VX FAs and tangible improvements for the L-AS FAs. However, management was adamant that there would be no improvements for the L-AS FAs without a mid-term JCBA.
A mid-term JCBA was not necessarily a negative development in itself. If the term of our current CBA had remained unchanged (amendable 2019, early re-opener 2018), AFA would be back in negotiations in October 2018 (of this year!), and the L-VX FAs would not yet even be on the L-AS work rules. From a bargaining leverage standpoint, that is a difficult position to be in for AFA. Consequently, the JNC pushed for an amendable date of 2020 (early re-opener 2019), but management was unwilling to agree. In fact, management initially proposed an amendable date of 2022 (early opener 2021), and the parties ultimately agreed to an amendable date of 2021 (early re-opener 2020).
Due to other recent Flight Attendant contracts, L-AS pay rates had fallen behind, so the JNC negotiated the 4.5% increase (coupled with the 1.5% in place for December) to bring back up the pay rate rankings compared to industry. In fact, we have closed the gap between Alaska and #1 Southwest to a better position on a percentage basis for top of scale rates than we were in 2014 (9.2% to WN now vs. 9.3% to WN in 2014).
Section 6 negotiations can take years, which can translate into longer periods of time without pay raises. The JNC saw an opportunity to secure pay and other improvements now, which sets us up for an improved bargaining position once we have all been flying together as a unified group. The early re-opener negotiations would begin in October 2020.