United to furlough nearly 700 flight attendants

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Reporting by Patrick Elwood, WGN News

For nearly 700 United Continental Airlines flight attendants it is the worst New Year’s news they could get: You’re fired.

United and Continental merged into the world’s second biggest airline a few years back, but all this time later there are still complications involving labor agreements from when Continental and United were 2 separate companies.

Simply put, it’s a case where the new combined company does not need as many employees. So 688 flight attendants will soon be out of a job, and many of those folks live in Chicago.

But the union says it doesn’t have to be this way, and that these flight attendants are willing to make sacrafices such as job sharing and taking as much as a month off without pay a year to help save the company money and to save these jobs.

A United Airlines spokesman issued a statement saying: “We have offered opportunities to flight attendants for both voluntary furloughs and job-sharing programs in order to mitigate involuntary furloughs, but these programs did not generate enough volunteers and we are faced with the difficult step of furloughing 688 flight attendants. We are disappointed that on three occasions the subsidiary United AFA rejected a voluntary cross-over program that would have provided flying opportunities to hundreds of flight attendants that may otherwise be involuntarily furloughed.”

That said, the union has filed a formal grievance and is prepared to go to federal court and sue, but they would much rather get back to the bargaining table with United bosses.

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