I have some updates for you. First, the company has made unilateral changes to the choices in medical care for those in Illinois that get injured at work. Illinois State Workers Compensation laws allow two choices in medical care. Every referral from the initial choice counts as part of that choice. If you didn't like your first choice for one reason or another, you had the option to seek other medical providers. The company has now implemented a new procedure, which requires the injured worker to either use or decline to use a “Preferred Provider.” The problem is that this new procedure eliminates one of your two options; by simply declining to go to the company chosen “Preferred Provider,” you have burned up a choice. While this is essentially allowed under Illinois State law, the implementation of the law for those covered by Collective Bargaining Agreements cannot occur without discussion with the Union. The company made no such attempt; thus, Local 512 has instructed its attorneys to seek relief in whatever forum necessary for our membership. I will keep you updated to this situation.
Secondly, I have filed a 29(d) grievance concerning the manner in which the company is conducting Reasonable Cause or Post Accident Drug and Alcohol Tests. Past practice allowed the Union Representative to witness the Breathalyzer part of the test; this is no longer the case. The company's insistence that the Breathalyzer be conducted without a union witness is flawed on several fronts. First, it goes against past practice. Secondly, the actual breath sample is not saved for further analysis in the same manner that the urine sample is. The union does not dispute privacy while providing the urine sample; the contract specifically addresses this. We believe this privacy issue does not apply when providing the breath sample. If the union cannot actually witness the test being conducted, we will dispute the results, because there is no way to verify the information.
Furthermore, because of the place where the employee’s car is parked, the union needs to have firsthand knowledge of the Breathalyzer test results. We have seen a significant increase in the amount of drug and alcohol testing in recent years. The company policy allows the employee to insist on taking their car home while awaiting the test results. The union will advocate for the employee to drive home provided that the Breathalyzer results allow this. Far too many times, the employee has been denied access to their car for days while awaiting the results of the urine test after the Breathalyzer test showed no alcohol at all. To add insult to injury, the company will provide only cab fare home after the initial test, but not transportation costs to return to the airport to retrieve the car. This flawed and unfair policy leaves the union no choice but to challenge this issue through arbitration.
I attended a Presidents Council meeting in Dallas last week. Much of the discussion was concerning the contract negotiations. The issues around the system are basically the same; our membership wants a contract. I, too, want a contract. There have been multiple issues to resolve, thus negotiations are not moving as quickly as we all hoped. For starters, the Joint Association is the only group on the property that is tasked with combining two separate and distinct contracts into one. Secondly, we had to wait until the Joint Association was recognized as the bargaining agent to start the negotiation process. Third, the TWU and the IAM needed to prepare as a combined group on proposed language. And now, we are the subject of the company's propaganda campaign as American Airlines Management attempts to bargain through the media and at town hall meetings. The carrot is being waved in front of us, and top managers are promising money. There is other language that should concern us: benefit costs, scope language, and work rules. If the company is truly committed to getting this contract done, I suggest that they place their efforts at the bargaining table.
The Tower Planner group has also been the topic of much discussion among our membership. The status of the Tower Planners and how that work is to be integrated into the union workforce will be addressed by the TWU International at the bargaining table. Predetermination of outcomes, spreading rumors, and pure speculation is counterproductive. As soon as verifiable information is available concerning this work group, the membership will be informed.
There has been much discussion with local management about the use of scanners and the testing of new technology. Technology is forever changing our lives; some for the good, and some for the bad. Make no mistake about it, American Airlines is embracing new technology. The Ramp Link program. T-Link, Prime Scanning, and Dynamic Manning are just some examples. The company wants Fleet Service Clerks to scan every bag every time that is it touched, and to start re-routing bags based on a customer’s itinerary. While this technology can prove beneficial in some respects, we cannot allow this technology to violate the contract. Instructions to Fleet Service Clerks must come from Crew Chiefs and not management. The union cannot prevent the company from testing and implementing new technology, but we will not stand idle if/when managers are directing the workforce under the guise of technology testing enhancements. The union has been very direct with management with respect to our position. If the company wants a “helping hand” in its technology testing, we have made suggestions that will help them achieve their goals that do not violate the contract; this including using a Training Crew Chief.
There is a new posting on the bulletin boards concerning the elimination of the B-Con Crew Chiefs. Our position is clear; we completely disagree with the elimination of this much needed position. If the Tower Planners or a member of management call your gate and give Fleet Service Clerks direction, file a grievance and follow it through to the third step. Again, Fleet Service Clerks get their directions from Crew Chiefs. Tower Planners can pass along information, not direct Fleet Service Clerks. Approximately 18 Months ago we had a major disagreement with a local manager about directing the workforce and thousands of dollars in grievance awards were paid, this in reference to the dumbwaiter bags work. Any violations of our contract will be addressed.
Another hot topic is the posting about ROC driver assignments. Again, let me perfectly clear; Local 512 does not support the position of the company in its recent posting. We have had very direct conversations about ROC driver assignments with management. It is our position that the ROC drivers should get their assignment from the ROC Crew Chief. When the need arises for additional gate support functions, those requests should be directed to the Support Crew Chief. The policy of having the gate Crew Chief give additional assignments to the ROC driver is simply counterproductive and will cause service failures. The gate Crew Chief does not know what the ROC driver has been assigned other than the trip that they are working. If the gate Crew Chief hands out assignments to a ROC driver, that assignment must be completed; yet, when a service failure occurs, that service failure will fall directly in the lap of the manager that made the decision to implement this policy. Additionally, ROC drivers assigned to US Airways planes are in no way to take direction from the US Air Lead. The agreement is for the US Airways employee to take the bags off the veyor, not AA Fleet Service Clerks. While we will be professional and cooperate, the work scope is to take the connecting bags, not any gate function other than that.
Another issue concerns our Fleet Service Clerks performing lavatory servicing for other airlines, which we are trained and normally assigned to do. Without notification from management to Local 512 officers, AA Fleet Service Clerks were assigned work on Iceland Air aircraft, because the contractor that has this work had no truck available to do it. If you are not checked out on the equipment assigned, tell the manager that you have not been trained to do this work. Other airline aircraft, simply because they are similar to AA aircraft you were trained on, in no way qualifies you to do lavatory servicing on that equipment. Different airlines have different procedures; different carriers have different systems on their aircraft. Local 512 is always looking for opportunities to do contract work, yet this must be work that we are trained and qualified to perform. The situation of a third party ground-handling contractor lacking ample ground support equipment is not our problem; don’t let it become your problem. Only perform work that you are trained to do. If you have questions, ask a Shop Steward or call an Officer.
In closing, as you can tell, this is proving to be an extremely busy time for us all. New procedures, ever-changing work rules, and technology are coming fast and furious. The work environment that we have been accustomed to is ever changing, and we must be aware of those changes. Yet, at the same time, we cannot allow those changes to violate our rights under the contract. And we cannot allow the company’s propaganda campaign to make us lose our focus on our ongoing contract negotiations. If you have any question or concerns, call an officer.