Flight attendants sue US Airways over furloughs


New Arizona, Il Duce/Warlord
Staff member
UPDATE - Flight attendants sue US Airways over furloughs
Thursday January 8, 5:54 pm ET
By John Crawley

(Updates with company reaction)
WASHINGTON, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Flight attendants at US Airways (NasdaqNM:UAIR - News) sued the beleaguered carrier on Thursday over plans to furlough more employees, another major flashpoint in the deteriorating relationship between management and the airline's labor unions.

The Association of Flight Attendants said the company violated the contract by not seeking out voluntary furloughs before announcing a new round of cuts and other staffing changes two weeks ago.

The No. 7 airline said it was cutting 200 flight attendants to make room for more senior attendants coming back to work after accepting temporary, voluntary furloughs as the airline struggled with downsizing.

US Airways also said it was reclassifying the furlough status of an additional 352 flight attendants from voluntary to involuntary, which diminishes their chances of returning to work.

"Management seems to be unnecessarily creating problems with its workers at a very delicate time for the airline," said Perry Hayes, an executive with the flight attendants' union. "Hopefully, US Airways management will work with us instead of against us in resolving this major dispute."

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, where US Airways has a hub. The attendants want a temporary order to prevent the company from moving forward with the furloughs affecting 552 workers.

Tension between US Airways management and its unionized employees has surged in recent weeks after labor groups said it would not consider new concessions.

The company is seeking work rule and productivity changes to lower costs and stay viable after emerging from bankruptcy protection in March.

US Airways classified the rift over flight attendant furloughs as a minor dispute and said it has asked a federal judge in Virginia to uphold the company's claim that the issue should be settled through arbitration.

"We believe that these furloughs were done in conjunction with agreements we have in the contract. These are not further reductions in the head count," said US Airways spokesman David Castelveter.

Castelveter said the flight attendant head count would remain at roughly 5,400.