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United Airlines Walks Back Plan To Make Full-Time Employees Go Part-Time

CHICAGO (CBS) -- United Airlines has backed down on a plan to force its employees to go from full-time to part-time.

The company blinked after the union representing 27,000 fleet service workers and passenger service agents filed a lawsuit on Tuesday.

CBS 2's Chris Tye spent the day looking at what the development means for airline workers.

In an effort to cut costs as plane sit on tarmacs and fly largely empty, United wanted to move a large chunk of 27,000 workers from full-time to part-time.

It was forced, and it wasn't received well by the International Association of Machinists. They filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, where among other things, they said United was in violation of the rules of the CARES Act – which precludes any furloughing of employees before Oct. 1.

Remember, United received $5 billion in federal aid.

United on Wednesday announced the program to shift from full-time to part-time would no longer be mandatory – it would be voluntary.

The airline added that if you agree, you will not lose your full-time status.

Part-timers who agree would slide from 20 hours to 10.

Calling it a scheme, the union said it was particularly surprised by the forced action – since they worked hand-in-hand with the airline to help secure the $5 billion.

Workers can decide starting next week if they want to move voluntarily from 40 hours to 30 hours.

The airline said if they don't see significant participation by the end of June, they will reconsider forced reduction.

United had said they thought the forced reduction was in full compliance of the CARES Act, but not only does the union not think so – the chief executive officer of American Airlines was quoted in one industry trade publication calling into question how United read the rules and thought they could so such a thing.

United said workers made it overwhelmingly clear they disagreed with the airline, and they appreciate the candor from workers and congressional leaders who spoke up on their behalf.

These positions are unrelated to the 3,400 white-collar jobs expected to be cut after October.

CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.

We'll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.

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