American Airlines planes on the tarmac in Miami Airport. The company announced layoffs which will take effect by mid-December. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In Miami, union president hopes American Airline layoffs will be minimized

Under federal guidelines,  American Airlines is required to announce plans of future layoffs.  Yesterday the airline issued a statement saying it could lay off as many as 1,400 employees in the Miami area.  The majority of positions in these possible layoffs are airport transportation workers, and most of them are Latino, according to Transport  Workers Union Local 568  president Sidney Jimenez.  He explains, however, the news is not as grim as the initial news reports.

“The airline has to announce its ‘worst case scenario,’ but we expect the layoffs affecting our union to be significantly less, from hundreds down to dozens,” says Jimenez.  The Dominican-American union president, who works as a crew chief and has been in this line of work for 25 years, explains there are several reasons why the layoffs will not be as numerous as those announced.  First of all,  says Jimenez, some employees will negotiate an early out, which will lessen the existing employees.  The high numbers of possible layoffs also take into account that more senior union employees in other cities who are laid off elsewhere will decide to relocate to Miami, which would bump more junior workers.  “Not every person laid off across the country will decide to relocate,” he says.

Also, says Jimenez, the company might change some of the more expensive mechanical procedures, which cost more to maintain, and switch them to positions filled by people.  Lastly, Jimenez also adds there are a couple of hundred unfilled positions which could be filled as some flights are added and changes made to itineraries, he says.  The Miami Herald also reports some union jobs which are subcontracted to private companies might also re-employ workers whose positions are eliminated.

What kinds of jobs are we talking about?  “It’s the jobs we describe as ‘below the wing’ of the plane,” he says.  This includes mechanics, plant maintenance and those in fleet service, including workers who push the plane to the gates and loading and unload bags into the aircraft.   “We have Latinos from every country working here; almost all of us are Hispanic,” says Jimenez.

To offset the effect of layoffs – regardless of the final number – the union president says they are working with business and community groups to coordinate job placement or job training opportunities for employees who are laid off.  Miami-based NBC News 6 (WTVJ) reports Florida Governor Rick Scott is asking business and unions groups to develop a plan to help displaced aviation workers.

In the meantime, American Airlines spokesman Bruce Hicks said in a statement yesterday, “While any job loss is difficult, we now expect the need to furlough only about one-third of our original estimate as a result of these efforts and other progress on our restructuring plans – the ultimate impact on jobs will be far less than the number of those notified.”  Though American Airlines expects job losses to be closer to 4,400, the company is sending layoff notices like the ones in Florida to 11,000 employees.  According to the New York Times,  notices were also sent to nearly 3,000 workers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, another 3,000 in Tulsa, Oklahoma,  around 1,000 in New York and Newark, N.J. and 900 in Chicago.

American Airlines employs approximately 9,000 people in South Florida, the area’s largest employer.  The airline filed for bankruptcy restructuring ten months ago.  The layoffs would be announced before December 16th.

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