Mexicana flight attendants propose new contract

Washington DC
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Mexicana's flight attendants union ASSA plans to submit a new contract proposal to the bankrupt carrier's new owners by early next week in hopes of resolving their current impasse.

Tenedora K, which acquired Mexicana's parent at the end of last week, in a statement earlier this week singled out ASSA for not being willing to negotiate concessions and warned its proposed rescue of the airline is dependent on deals with all unions. Tenedora K has been claiming that while it has already forged an agreement with the pilots union ASPA and talks are progressing well with ground personnel union SNTTTASS, talks are not moving forward with ASSA.

An ASSA spokesman, however, tells Flightglobal today that the union continues to talk to Tenedora K and is putting together a new contract proposal after it was outraged with the proposal Tenedora K brought to the table at the beginning of this week. The spokesman says the Tenedora K proposal was to completely abandon the current contract at Mexicana, lay off all 1,367 of the carrier's mainline flight attendants and then rehire 25% under the lower-cost contract ASSA currently has for flight attendants at Mexicana subsidiary Click.

The spokesman says the new proposal will provide additional concessions beyond a proposal ASSA put on the table early last week, when several potential investors were looking at acquiring Mexicana. He says that proposal included reductions in wages, per diems and other benefits that would have provided a 20% total reduction in flight attendant costs.

The spokesman says the new proposal, which ASSA expects to complete this weekend and submit early next week, will reduce flight attendant costs by over 20%. But an exact figure is not yet available.

The proposal also includes changes in some of the conditions in the current contract which Tenedora K finds onerous. The spokesman says ASSA is willing to re-negotiate some of long-standing contractual conditions, some of which have been in place for decades, but is not willing to throw all of them away.

"There's been a contract at Mexicana for 50 years and they just want to push it away. That's the problem," the spokesman says.

He adds it is not acceptable to simply apply the contract at Click to Mexicana mainline because the Click contract is only four-years old and Click only operates short-haul flights. ASSA also represents Click's 250 flight attendants but the negotiations with Tendora K are focussing exclusively on the mainline contract.

"There's nothing to change at Click. It's a very small contract," the spokesman says.

He says the union understands concessions and new contractual conditions are needed to restructure Mexicana but "they were just pushing too hard".

He says the union elected not to even forward the original Tenedora K proposal to its members for a vote because it was so "unreasonable".

"If members don't accept, this is not going to work. That's why we're building our proposal in our own way," the spokesman explains.

Potentially complicating the negotiations, ASSA is insisting on forging a long-term deal rather than a short-term agreement. Mexicana's other two unions, ASPA and SNTTTASS, have only agreed to short-term deals covering concessions over the next 100 days. The idea is to buy time and give Tenedora K three months to forge long-term contracts with the unions as the new owners start to work on a restructuring plan.

But the ASSA spokesman says the union is not interested in simply agreeing to concessions for 100 days. "If we don't have a long-term arrangement for us there's no reason to have a short-term arrangement," he says.

He argues that Mexicana flight attendants, which have not received a salary increase in four years, shouldn't have to agree to concessions for 100 days without ensuring their long-term salaries will be sufficient. He says the union also wants to know more about Tenedora K's plans for the airline, including expected staffing levels, before proceeding further.

The spokesman says this is particularly important as Tenedora K may turn out to be a short term investor. "We're not confident they are interested in the airline business - that's why the contract should be long-term," he says.

Despite the urgency in resolving Mexicana's current situation ASSA believes there is enough time to negotiate a long-term deal. If Tenedora K cooperates the spokesman says a new contract can be in place and voted on by members next week.

He says the union remains confident a deal can be reached and Tenedora K will not walk away from its proposed rescue of Mexicana. "We understand we'll have to make some changes. We'll give what it takes to keep the airline flying," he says, adding if Tenedora K wanted to walk away "it would have happened already".