Comair Attendants Agree To Wage Cuts

Flight attendants with Comair, Inc. pose for a photograph in front of Federal Bankruptcy Court in New York Monday, March 27, 2006. Comair's 970 flight attendants voted to accept cuts in wages on Tuesday, November 14, 2006, in a deal to help the airline emerge from bankruptcy protection, their union said.
Comair flight attendants have voted to accept cuts in wages and other concessions in a deal the Delta subsidiary has claimed was necessary for it to emerge from bankruptcy protection, their union said Tuesday.

The four-year deal with the 970 flight attendants includes a 7.5 percent pay cut and job protection if Comair is sold by Delta Air Lines Inc. before emerging from bankruptcy protection. Both sides negotiated the deal after a bankruptcy judge in New York gave Comair permission to impose concessions.

Comair and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, representing the airline's flight attendants, reached a tentative agreement last month, four days after Comair said it would impose wage cuts and changes in work rules for the flight attendants on Nov. 15.

Connie Slayback, president of Local 513 of the Teamsters, said the vote was 549 to 126 in favor of the deal.

"I'm relieved that the majority of flight attendants were satisfied with the agreement," Slayback said. "It would have been difficult, especially for me as part of the negotiating team, to have a close vote."

Dave Soaper, the airline's senior vice president of Aircraft Operations, thanked the flight attendants for ratifying the contract in a memo to them Tuesday.

"The agreement is the result of nearly a year of negotiations and is an important step in completing our restructuring," Soaper said. "Most importantly, by approving this new agreement, the flight attendants have helped Comair take another step toward securing a long-term future for all employees."

Like Delta, Comair is trying to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filed last year and it says the cuts are necessary for it to survive.

Slayback said she did not have a total dollar figure for the package of concessions, but the company said it totals $7.9 million a year.

The deal will still have to be approved by a federal bankruptcy court. If approved, the agreement would take effect Dec. 31 unless the pilots union reaches a deal with the airline before that date.

Comair has said that it must have concessions from all three of its unions to emerge from bankruptcy.

Negotiations with the pilots union were continuing this week, but union spokesman Paul Denke said there had been no significant progress. He said the union has established a strike preparedness committee in the event Comair imposes concessions on its pilots. Comair asked a federal bankruptcy court earlier this month to allow it to impose concessions on the 1,500 pilots if it cannot reach an agreement with them.

The airline has said it needs $15.8 million in concessions from pilots. Denke has said that the union has proposed $14 million in concessions in addition to those Comair pilots have taken over the past two years.

The third union representing machinists already has a deal with the airline for $1 million in concessions.

Comair, with 6,500 employees, operates 882 flights daily to approximately 103 cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico.