August 19, 2015
Yesterday, we offered AFA a proposal to try to accelerate negotiations and give you an opportunity to vote on an industry-leading joint contract before the end of the year.
Our proposal called for resuming negotiations on September 1 and using all our efforts to reach agreement by September 30 (or a mutually agreed date to be negotiated). If we weren’t able to meet that deadline, United and AFA would jointly appoint a panel of expert arbitrators/mediators to consider our respective positions and recommend a tentative joint contract. This recommended tentative joint contract could then be subject to a vote by flight attendants and adoption by United.
This process of seeking a “non-binding” recommendation by outside, third-party neutral experts is in our view, the best chance we have of advancing negotiations and getting a deal done by the end of the year or soon thereafter. While it can’t guarantee we get a deal – since neither flight attendants nor the company would be forced to accept the recommendation – we believe it offers an opportunity for both parties to reconsider their positions and reach for the compromises that may currently be eluding them – that goes for United as well as AFA.
By incentivizing both parties to compromise and bridge existing differences during the accelerated negotiation period, we believe the parties could actually reach a tentative agreement without resorting to a non-binding recommendation. But if we couldn’t reach agreement, the process we proposed would provide a “back-stop” mechanism that could, at the very least, shine light on a path forward and, at best, produce a ratified joint agreement. Most importantly, you would still get to vote on whatever tentative contract comes out, whether it is reached by mutual agreement or as a recommendation of the expert panel.
Unfortunately, AFA rejected our proposal and told us it had no interest in considering any path other than filing for mediation before the National Mediation Board. Since the Continental and Continental Micronesia contracts are currently open (amendable), either party has the right to file for mediation. We expect over the next few weeks the NMB will docket the application and then schedule dates to meet.
What does this mean for you? It means it will take longer than flight attendants or United prefer to reach a joint agreement. Mediation can often take months or, in many cases, years to conclude. We firmly believe there are other, better opportunities for United and AFA to bring closure to these negotiations much faster. But AFA obviously doesn’t share that view.
Today, we also notified AFA that we intend to terminate the current Negotiation Protocol Agreement (NPA), based on AFA’s non-compliance with that agreement. The NPA outlined the facilitated problem solving process we have used for the past year and certain other arrangements related to negotiations. Moving forward without this protocol agreement won’t impact our ability or continued commitment to reach an industry-leading joint agreement that best serves the interests of flight attendants and the company.
Thanks for all you do.