This is the seventh in a series of “Reduction in Force” (RIF) communications from the Master Executive Council (MEC). See RIF Part 1, RIF Part 2, RIF Part 3, RIF Part 4, RIF Part 5, and RIF Part 6 for the previous editions.
In This Edition
- COVID-19 Pandemic Impact to Staffing
- Early Out and Other Furlough Mitigation Awards
- Involuntary Furloughs
- Systemwide Vacancy Bid?
- Payroll Support Program Extension
COVID-19 Pandemic Impact to Staffing
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on staffing. Over the past several months, approximately 70% (~4200 out of 5968) of Alaska Airlines Flight Attendants have been on some form of pandemic-related leave of absence or reduced hours line. This includes school/childcare closure leaves; high-risk or self-isolation leaves; directed isolation or quarantine leaves; work-related exposure leaves; capacity reduction leaves; and voluntary low bid (reduced hours) lines. That is over 70% of Flight Attendants whose paychecks and livelihoods have been directly affected by this pandemic, which is not even factoring in the impact to the entire group through reduction of the line average to the contractual minimum.
Early Out and Other Furlough Mitigation Awards
With regard to Early Outs (EOs), Extended Leaves of Absence (ELOAs) and Enhanced Voluntary Furloughs (EVFs):
- Total bids: ~2,900
- Total awards: ~2,500
- EOs awarded: 200
- ELOAs awarded: 50
- EVFs awarded: 2,250
- Total denied: ~400
Management has stated that the denied furlough mitigation bid requests are to prevent excessively imbalanced staffing between the domiciles. The Master Executive Council (MEC) has reviewed numerous iterations of potential awards, and we can validate that the complex interplay between occupational seniority, domicile assignment, leave duration and base guarantee requirements lead to vastly different outcomes depending on how many of each type of furlough mitigation are awarded. Candidly, there was no potential award that felt good to the MEC for various reasons. Although we are extremely disappointed that not all furlough mitigation bids were awarded, this final award is the least objectionable—call it the best of a really, really bad situation.
We regret to inform you that management intends to involuntarily furlough approximately 400 Flight Attendants effective October 1, 2020. This affects the junior quarter of the April 16, 2018 Initial Training class and all Flight Attendants junior to them. Management will begin involuntary furlough (IVF) notifications starting next week via certified mail at current mailing addresses on file with the Company and via Company email. Management will also host an online IVF information session the week after, and MEC representatives will participate.
Management also intends to recall many IVFs in October after a very short furlough—on the order of a few days. The MEC understands these October recalls will be based most likely in Seattle, Anchorage or Portland in order to “right size” the operation. We are already working with management to develop a domicile preference bid form for IVF recalls as soon as possible. Involuntary furloughs will have access to all reduction in force contractual provisions, including severance pay and relocation benefits as applicable. Management is not committing to this, but the MEC believes there is a very good chance that all IVFs will be recalled by March 2021 based on the staffing projections we have seen; however, these projections are subject to change.
Systemwide Vacancy Bid?
Will there be a systemwide vacancy bid (sometimes called a “master re-bid” on the line) in which everyone rebids for a domicile? Management seems to believe that recalling the involuntary furloughs to specific domiciles will adequately balance the operation for now, but they have not ruled out a systemwide vacancy bid in the future. AFA disputes management’s position that it may unilaterally impose a systemwide vacancy bid under these circumstances, and we fully intend to file a contractual grievance and push for expedited arbitration if management decides to move forward with such a bid.
For some historical perspective, there have been only two systemwide vacancy bids: once in the mid-90s to correct seniority violations as a result of imposed work rules during contract negotiations and again in 2011 to correct seniority violations and to right size LAX as a result of a preceding reduction in force. Both scenarios involved discussion and concurrence from AFA and management prior to proceeding.
Payroll Support Program Extension
Although Congress has technically recessed for now, work to extend the Payroll Support Program (PSP) continues in earnest during the recess. If PSP were to be extended at any point and involuntary furloughs subsequently prohibited, AFA and management would meet and confer over any necessary changes to furlough mitigations and involuntary furloughs pursuant to the October 2020 Involuntary Furlough Mitigations Letter of Agreement. Realistically, that would likely lead to discussion regarding voluntary leave programs similar to those offered over the last five months.
These are extremely difficult and stressful times. Please remember that your AFA Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Committee is always available as a support resource. As your direct representative on the MEC, your LEC president is available to answer questions or concerns that you may have about all the information presented here. Contact information for your respective LEC president can be found by clicking here.