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What United Wants For the Company In Its Labor Negotiations

In my last post, I wrote about what United wants for its employees. In this post, let's talk about what United wants for itself. As with the employees, there are three things that United wants for the company.

  • A competitive cost structure in a difficult economic and industry environment
  • Enhanced productivity
  • Flexibility to adapt to rapid changes in the marketplace, evolving customer expectations and emerging commercial opportunities
The first couple are pretty easy to translate. Clearly they want to keep wages down. (They spend 5 or 6 pages explaining why their costs are too high.) And of course they want enhanced productivity. This all results in lower costs for the airline either with low wages or lower necessary headcounts.

The last point, however, is really messy. They don't really care to clarify very much either. If you need a little "Tilton-speak" to brighten up your day, here is what they say under the brain-hurting headline, "Our Contracts Must Be Flexible Enough To Enable United To Protect the Enterprise and Position For Growth"

  • By having flexibility to respond to marketplace evolution
  • By optimizing within the evolving regulatory environment
  • By being able to deploy technological advances
  • By being able to respond to external events beyond United's control
My head just exploded.

They're good at trying to justify why they need flexibility, but at no point do they explain what they want. It would seem that they want to get rid of or significantly loosen their scope clause so they can outsource more flying, and they probably want flexible furlough policies for any crisis that hits that's out of their control as well. But that's all speculation. They don't spell it out, and I can't say I know the answer.

I suppose this will all be revealed as negotiations get started. Something tells me there might be a run on Tums around United headquarters in the near future.

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