Former CEO Jeff Smisek, who was forced to resign amidst a bribery scandal, was famously incompetent at labor negotiations. When United and Continental Airlines merged back in October 2010, he (rather bombastically) declared himself capable of unifying the workers of United and Continental under a familial contract by the end of 2011. We are assured that he did, in fact, work on this goal sometimes. But then 2011 came and went. And then 2015 came and Smisek went. The promised labor agreements didn’t happen.
This victory has positioned United to correct another major labor difficulty; the long standing quarrel involving the flight attendants and their profit sharing. The old contract did not entitle former Continental flight attendants to participate in the profit sharing program, a detail that obviously did not sit well. Last month, the Association of Flight Attendants reached an agreement with United that will largely remedy this.
Moving proactively to prevent future labor ugliness, United management has proposed expedited bargaining for both fleet service workers and pilots. In the case of the pilots, they have been offered a new fleet of 100-seat planes to fly, in the hopes that the increased need for pilot jobs will start the negotiations off sweetly. For the fleet services, a moratorium on outsourcing that will last through 2019. So, a little something under the tree for everybody. Merry Christmas.
What this is expected to do for the friendly skies
Under Smisek, United Airlines set levels of customer service dreadfulness that were unmatched by all other important air carriers. If United passengers during the Smisek era had been replaced by cows, PETA might have protested their treatment. Flying with Smisek-managed United had become so loathsome, that the annual Airline Quality Rating Report gave the airline the worst possible score it could give, and gave it for three consecutive years. Much of these problems can be laid at the feet of poor labor relations. Making employees hate their jobs seemed to almost be the goal of the Smisek era. Customers, innocently wandering into these hated workplaces, paid the price. Munoz seems to really be serious about reversing this strategy, and trying to convince employees to love their jobs once more. If so, then United passengers should expect to enjoy a much more welcoming workplace to fly through.
UPDATE: An earlier version incorrectly included a reference to a tentative agreement, instead of a proposal.