US Airways Flight Attendants Reject Contract Offer (Update 1)

Tickers in this article: LCC
Updated with comments from US Airways CEO Doug Parker .

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- ( TheStreet) -- For the second time this year, flight attendants at US Airways (LCC) rejected a tentative contract agreement by just 48 votes.

The Association of Flight Attendants said Thursday that 51% of voters rejected the proposed contract as 5,527, or 85% of the bargaining unit, voted. The vote was 2,811 against and 2,761 in favor.

The support improved from March, when a similar deal was rejected by 75% of the flight attendants who voted.

"While the tentative agreement contained pay increases and job protections for all Flight Attendants, our flying partners today declared management didn't dig deep enough," said Deborah Volpe and Roger Holmin, presidents of the union chapters at the former America West and at US Airways, respectively, in a prepared statement.

"For too long, flight attendants have subsidized the cost of the merger and management has failed to adequately address these concerns," the two officers said. "We are committed to improving our future and will do whatever it takes to ensure that US Airways Flight Attendants have an industry-leading contract that reflects our professionalism and dedication to the airline."

US Airways CEO Doug Parker said in a prepared statement that the carrier was disappointed by the vote. "The tentative agreement was unanimously endorsed by AFA leaders in each domicile and by the members of the AFA negotiating committee, and we thank them for their leadership." Parker also thanked National Mediation Board officials and Veda Shook, the AFA's national president, for their assistance in securing a tentative agreement.

"Going forward, our current collective bargaining agreements remain in place, and we will consult with the National Mediation Board to determine the next steps," Parker said.

Union leaders said they would meet to review options, but it is unclear what options they have beyond seeking another vote, which would be the third, or continuing to work under the existing contract which offers salaries far below the levels available in the existing traffic. It seems unlikely that the NMB would release flight attendants to pursue self-help.

Seven years after the 2005 merger between US Airways and America West, flight attendants still work under different contracts. The tentative agreement would have resulted in a single contract with higher wages for both groups and would have extended strong job protections, which had been limited to the former US Airways flight attendants, to the entire group.

Former union President Mike Flores has said that the airline began to negotiate seriously after realizing that an effort to merge with bankrupt American (AAMRQ.PK) could be hindered by the lack of a contract with its own flight attendants.

After voters turned down the tentative agreement in March, Flores, who had strongly backed it, was ousted by the union's executive council. The version offered in the September voting differed little from the earlier version, but had the backing of union leaders who opposed it the first time.