MECHANICS UNION DEFEATS CORONA VIRUS-BASED FURLOUGHS –
AIRLINE’S INVOCATION OF FORCE MAJEURE REJECTED
In a decision dated September 18, 2020, Arbitrator Fredric R. Horowitz rejected Alaska Airlines’ position that job security provisions negotiated by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) could be nullified by advent of the COVID-19 pandemic based on a force majeure clause contained in the relevant letter of agreement (LOA 9).
In paragraph 1 of the LOA 9, the parties negotiated a general no-layoff provision for all union-represented employees, which was subject to a force majeure clause contained in paragraph 2. Pursuant to paragraph 2, Alaska would be excused from the no-layoff provision in the “above” paragraph in the event of a natural disaster.
However, AMFA subsequently negotiated a supplemental paragraph 4 that created no-layoff protection for its members at six stations (LAX, SEA, SAN, SFO, PDX, and JFK) with no parallel reference to the paragraph 2 force majeure clause. AMFA argued, therefore, that the force majeure clause could not be invoked to diminish the paragraph 4 no-layoff protection.
Moreover, AMFA argued that furloughed employees throughout the carrier’s system could use their seniority to bid into these six protected stations, even in the absence of vacancies, without the incumbent junior employees at those stations being displaced from their positions.
The final arbitration decision upheld AMFA’s position on both counts.
“The arbitration result was dictated by the plain terms of the negotiated agreement,” commented AMFA National Director Bret Oestreich. “Our union negotiated for job protections that are not subject to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we expect those job protections to be honored.”
AMFA was represented in the case by Nicholas Granath of the law firm of Seham, Seham, Meltz & Petersen, LLP.
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