Steps in the right direction…
Inflight management recently revealed changes and clarifications to the Alaska Listens customer feedback process in the February 22nd communication “Customer Feedback.” The Master Executive Council (MEC) has heard you loud and clear that there is much confusion and discontent on the line regarding “red flags,” so any clarifications are a refreshing change to recent experience. According to the communication, management intends to balance the kudos and red flags going forward by treating them more equally than in the past. Although the MEC is not providing a blanket endorsement, generally speaking many of the stated changes to policy appear to be steps in the right direction.
However, it is disappointing that management did not do more to acknowledge the level of your dissatisfaction and did not even mention AFA’s advocacy on your behalf. The MEC firmly believes management would not have revised the program without the constant negative feedback from the line combined with the persistent pressure from your AFA leaders. Most of the time your AFA leaders are content to simply work in the background, and we do not find it necessary to communicate the details of how we work with management. Although the MEC very much appreciates management’s willingness to make adjustments to this policy based on feedback, in this case it is important for our members to know the full “behind the scenes” story.
The full “behind the scenes” story
From the very beginning, AFA advised management that this program would be received poorly if not administrated in a positive and non-punitive manner. AFA requested that any low level customer feedback simply be sent to the Flight Attendant via email without a required supervisor discussion or documentation. The MEC is pleased to see that the revised customer feedback policy now does just that.
In addition, AFA continued to seek clarification on the specifics of the program and clear communication from management to the Flight Attendant group over the past several months. Management appeared reluctant to clearly spell out the program in writing—until now.
So what changed? The MEC is not saying it was all due to our efforts, but you should know that we’ve had a very critical communication about red flags written and ready to go for some time now. We were strategically holding off on sending it out in order to accomplish miscellaneous business important to our flight attendants—including achieving clarifications and ideally policy changes to the red flag program.
Last week AFA engaged in several discussions with management about red flags and our intent to communicate to our members about our perspective regarding the red flag program. Late last week management requested that the MEC hold off for a few more days in order to have the opportunity to revamp the program prior to AFA communicating on the subject. The MEC reluctantly voted to wait until the new customer feedback policy was released on Monday. The reality is that this policy change was at least partially the result of multiple meetings and numerous back and forth communications between AFA and management over several months. So now here we are.
Red flags and the disciplinary timeline
AFA had made multiple requests for clarification regarding how far into the past management would refer to red flags in a Flight Attendant’s personnel file in order to take disciplinary action. In our opinion, management had been purposefully vague with respect to the timeline up until this latest communication. Management has now clearly stated that they will not utilize red flags that are older than 18 months in order to determine discipline. Upon a cursory review, this timeline appears to be contractually consistent with CBA §19.D. [Grievance Procedures: Disciplinary Eighteen (18) Month Removal], but the MEC will be more thoroughly evaluating the timeline at our monthly meeting this week.
Summary of the customer feedback process as we know it
Effective March 1st, all kudos and most red flags will simply be emailed to Flight Attendants—no response required.
First three general or relatively benign “red flags” in 18 months
Management says that the first two general or relatively benign red flags in 18 months will simply be emailed and will no longer require a conversation. The third general or relatively benign red flag will result in a record of discussion (ROD). For more information about RODs, see “What is a ROD?” below.
After three general or relatively benign “red flags” in 18 months…
After three general or relatively benign flags in 18 months, or if any Alaska Listens comment is deemed serious, then the Flight Attendant will likely be referred directly to his or her performance supervisor. Depending on the severity of the allegation, the Flight Attendant could be given a ROD or issued progressive discipline. If a Flight Attendant attends a performance meeting and there is any type of discipline issued, the contractual grievance process is available to dispute the discipline. For your information, Manager of Inflight Labor and Work Performance Leslee Cabulagan leads the performance group; and the performance supervisors are Michelle Kirschbaum (PDX & SEA: A), Beth Swanson (SAN & SEA: B-I), Tony Nichols (ANC & SEA: J-P) and Natasha Kemp (LAX & SEA: Q-Z).
Why is management not more supportive?
AFA understands the group’s frustration that many of these red flags stem from Flight Attendants’ compliance with FARs and Company policies. Why is management not more supportive of Flight Attendants in upholding the policies that management puts in place? The Association has repeatedly urged management to refocus energy on being supportive and encouraging of Flight Attendants and to recognize the excellent job we do—and we will continue to do so.
What is a ROD?
A ROD is not considered discipline. It is a record of a discussion with an employee outlining a company policy or procedure. A Flight Attendant should be provided a copy of any ROD and s/he may issue a statement in response to the ROD for her/his ROD file. A ROD stays in your file permanently—however, it can only be used to show that you were previously advised of a policy.
Although an ROD is a permanent part of an employees record, AFA stands firm on the fact that any ROD over 18 months old is not to be counted in the red flag total. AFA will file a grievance if management tries to use a red flag older than 18 months.
What can Flight Attendants do?
When flying, we encourage Flight Attendants to write up any incident or concern that they have with a customer. This will provide a record of the Flight Attendant’s side of the interaction. Many are using the notes function on their Inflight Mobile Device (IMD) to take a few notes when an event occurs.
Flight Attendants have the right to access their personnel and ROD files upon request and AFA encourages all to take a look at their files on a regular basis. A Flight Attendant must specifically request both files.
If a Flight Attendant is contacted to speak with a supervisor or manager regarding a red flag, the Flight Attendant may ask, “Is there a possibility of discipline?” If the answer is yes, the Flight Attendant should contact her/his local AFA representative. If the answer is no, ask the supervisor to verify if it will be noted as a ROD. If it is noted as a ROD, then you should be provided a copy. If you would like to add your own statement to the ROD, you may do so.
If, during a conversation with a supervisor, you become concerned and wish to have an AFA rep involved, you can stop the conversation and request one. If you are asked to write a statement, you should consult with an AFA rep before doing so.
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AFA will keep you updated on further developments regarding the new customer feedback policy once it has been implemented on March 1st and we have had an opportunity to evaluate the new rules.
Your MEC – Jeffrey Peterson, Brian Palmer, Yvette Gesch, Lisa Pinkston, Laura Masserant, Cathy Gwynn, Sandra Morrow, Stephen Couckuyt; MEC Grievance Committee Chairperson Jennifer Wise MacColl and MEC Grievance Representative Stephanie Adams