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Friday, April 28, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Alaska Airlines attendants approve labor agreement

Alaska Airlines flight attendants approved a contract that raises pay and enhances profit sharing after almost three years of talks, the workers union said Thursday.

The Association of Flight Attendants and Alaska Airlines, the 10th-largest U.S. carrier, reached a tentative contract agreement last month.

Fifty-six percent of the roughly 2,100 flight attendants who voted cast ballots in favor of accepting the new four-year deal. The AFA represents a total of 2,540 flight attendants at Alaska.

"This has been a long process, but we feel that the needs and concerns of our members have been addressed," Veda Shook, head of the Alaska Airlines union, said in a statement.

Alaska Airlines' attendants rejected a previous tentative contract in July, partly because it didn't provide raises for the highest-paid attendants.

Alaska also wanted to increase the amount of each flight attendant's duty day — the maximum number of hours that flying can be scheduled — from 10.5 hours to 12.5 hours. The new agreement keeps the duty day at 10.5 hours.

The pact includes an immediate 3 percent raise that is retroactive for the past 18 months, so flight attendants will each receive a lump-sum payment in their next paycheck. It also includes raises two years from now, and in the final year of the agreement.

The contract approved Thursday also places caps on medical premiums, protections against jobs being contracted out to other companies and provisions to preserve seniority in case Alaska is bought or merges with another carrier, the union said.

Alaska Airlines, the Seattle-based unit of Alaska Air Group, has been trying to reduce costs as competition from low-fare carriers such as Southwest increases.

The airline has been performing well financially of late.

It posted a rare operating profit in the first quarter and, along with Southwest, was one of only two major U.S. airlines to make money in 2005.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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