Southwest Airlines' operational emergency continues as mechanics threaten lawsuit
Posted On: Mar 07, 2019
Southwest Airlines’ declared state of operational emergency (SOE) remained in effect at three of the carrier's major mechanics bases on Thursday, as the SOE enters its fourth week.
Sources inside the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) and a Southwest spokeswoman confirmed late Thursday that the SOE remains in effect in Houston and Los Angeles, plus in Dallas, where Southwest has its largest mechanics base with more than 850 on staff. More than 2,400 Southwest mechanics belong to AMFA.
Since the SOE was first declared on Feb. 15, mechanics at bases where the SOE is in effect have had to follow strict rules regarding sick leave, vacation days and overtime work or risk being charged with insubordination and possible job termination.
Southwest management said it was forced to declare the SOE because of a sudden spike in out-of-service aircraft in the days after a contentious bargaining session between mechanics and management in early February. Contract talks between management and mechanics have stretched out over six years.
Apparently still not satisfied with the mechanics’ response after two weeks under the SOE, Southwest management late last week filed a lawsuit in federal court in Dallas that among other things asked a judge to issue an injunction forcing mechanics to immediately end an alleged job action over stalled contract talks.
A Southwest spokeswoman late Thursday said the carrier had no update on last week’s lawsuit.
Meanwhile, sources inside AMFA on Thursday signaled a countersuit in response to Southwest management's lawsuit may be “coming soon.”
AFMA has repeatedly stated in recent weeks that the union is not engaging in any illegal job action, but is working to ensure the safety of all Southwest flights.
Southwest also is in the middle of an ongoing audit by the Inspector General in the United States Department of Transportation of the carrier’s safety culture. That audit began in June of last year.
Still, the Federal Aviation Administration last week granted Southwest authorization to fly from the mainland U.S. to Hawaii. The first flights will take off from Oakland International Airport to Honolulu on March 17.
The next scheduled contract bargaining session between mechanics and Southwest management is slated for March 12.