Delta faces seniority challenges with attendants and mechanics

Washington DC
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Delta Air Lines has made progress with smaller work groups on post-merger seniority integration and union representation, but the carrier still faces delay and dissent in blending its flight attendant and mechanics groups.

The airline says that several committees representing Delta employees made their recommendations on how to integrate seniority lists in their merger with Northwest Airlines. These findings cover workers in cargo sales, reservations sales and its TechOps maintenance unit, says Mike Campbell, Delta's EVP human resources and labour relations. If the representatives of pre-merger Northwest employees agree to the recommendations, "we would have seniority integration issues resolved for the vast majority of our combined employee group",says Campbell.

Pre-merger Northwest employee representatives for training, production planners, line-maintenance planners, technical workers, reliability analysts and technical analysts, who had been represented by the Aircraft Technical Support Association, also voted to approve a transition plan. This independent union will ask the National Mediation Board to end its representation.

Campbell notes that a committee of pre-merger Delta flight attendants made a recommendation for integration of that workforce several weeks ago. However, the former Northwest flight attendants have yet to act in that recommendation. Nor has their union, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, asked the Mediation Board to hold a new election for all flight attendants at the merged Delta-Northwest. However, with the recent Obama administration nomination of a replacement for a Bush Mediation Board appointee, NMB chair Read Van de Water, the union may act.

The International Association of Machinists, which represents many pre-merger Northwest ground-service workers, sued Delta late last year to bar it from moving forward on worker integration until an election is held among all eligible employees. It has yet to make a formal request for that election, but says in a recent hotline message: "It is important to understand that these (employee representative) groups have no legal standing to make decisions for Delta employees, let alone any Northwest employees. They are not a union or lawful employee representative. They are Delta employees being financed by Delta for the benefit of Delta. The fact that they are illegal 'company unions' is one of the issues before the Court."