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Old 01-11-2012, 08:53 PM   #1
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Default "The stick when unions refuse the carrot"

http://atwonline.com/article/editori...se-carrot-0103

Chapter 11: The stick when unions refuse the carrot
By Karen Walker


Gerard Arpey famously once said while he was American Airlines chairman and CEO that he was “looking under every rock” to find the savings necessary to keep the company from having to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

In the end, the rock-searching quest failed. For many observers, AMR Corp.’s fall into Chapter 11 was no surprise. The company has lost more than $11 billion since 2001 and has seen its rivals merge into mega-carriers that outsize and outcompete American.

But there was one rock that was most obstinate of all and which ultimately forced Arpey’s hand, making him deal the Chapter 11 hand even though he refused to play this game (Arpey was asked by the AMR board to remain as chairman and CEO, but chose to resign, reportedly stepping down without any severance).

AMR’s labor groups were the immovable obstacles. And it was not only about money; unrealistic work practice rules were a particular sticking point. American said that its labor costs were $800 million a year higher than its rivals, mainly because its pilots operate under less flexible, fewer-hour contracts.

It must be pointed out that US legacy airline management—including American’s —is partly to blame for this situation. Back in the heyday 1990s when business was booming, US airlines did generous deals with their unions which now seem, albeit with hindsight, recklessly neglectful of the need to prepare for harder times. Management failure to strike tough but fair bargaining agreements created a double-headed problem. First, these high labor costs were unsustainable in the post 9/11 era—and even without 9/11, they could not compete with the new and growing wave of low-cost carriers. And second, they fueled a misperception by unionized employees that every new contract would improve on the last one, while also securing jobs for all.

Nevertheless, AMR’s union leaders must be held to task for not seeing the stick that was most assuredly coming in the form of Chapter 11 if they refused the carrots that Arpey and his team spent years attempting to make palatable. Given the evidence all around them—every other US legacy carrier has resorted to Chapter 11 at some point and American is bleeding money in a weak economy that may worsen before it turns around—then it was foolhardy to think the AMR board would not follow the same path.

The failure of legacy carrier labor groups to wake up to the new economic reality is not unique to the US. Witness the ultimate showdown that Qantas CEO Alan Joyce eventually had with his airline’s unions in October when he ground the fleet to force to a head a long and costly dispute.

For American, Chapter 11 is neither as dramatic a step nor is it as traumatic for customers. But that does not mean it will be easy. CEO Tom Horton has warned of a tough, unpredictable path ahead that will result in unpopular decisions and, of course, job cuts. Management now has much less control of where it slices and dices; and union leaders have done neither their company nor the employees they represent any favors by their stubbornness.
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Old 01-11-2012, 09:11 PM   #2
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Let's not forget the public's part in this. They're so used to buying cheap chit at Walmart that they expect their airline to do the same. Anything over $400 round trip and they start *****in. Of course they also complain about crappy service, no meal, no legroom, no carry on space, and checked bag fees. I think they're getting much of what they paid for, though not quite all of it yet.

When major players disappear, the rest raise fares, and the cut throats cease ops leaving them high and dry, THEN they'll have gotten their reward.

Honestly, at some point this occupation (not profession) isn't worth the price of admission.
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Old 01-12-2012, 06:55 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Iowa Farm Boy View Post
Let's not forget the public's part in this. They're so used to buying cheap chit at Walmart that they expect their airline to do the same. Anything over $400 round trip and they start *****in. Of course they also complain about crappy service, no meal, no legroom, no carry on space, and checked bag fees. I think they're getting much of what they paid for, though not quite all of it yet.

When major players disappear, the rest raise fares, and the cut throats cease ops leaving them high and dry, THEN they'll have gotten their reward.

Honestly, at some point this occupation (not profession) isn't worth the price of admission.
Thank you!!
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Old 01-12-2012, 07:37 AM   #4
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And yet, in another article in that same issue:

AMERICAN AIRLINES | ATWOnline

Quote:
in 2003, AA employees accepted $1.8 billion in annual wage and benefit givebacks and the elimination of 9,300 jobs.
and

Quote:
As Horton is the first to point out, AA is not the typical bankrupt airline, in terms of both short-term financial stability (unprecedented for a bankrupt US carrier) and having several unique “assets” that Horton believes provide a foundation for long-term prosperity.

For starters, AMR has approximately $4.1 billion in unrestricted cash and short-term investments available, a very high amount for a bankrupt company in general and an unheard of amount for a US airline operating under Chapter 11. Coupled with revenue from continuing operations (more than $6 billion per quarter), the cash “is anticipated to be more than sufficient to assure that [AA’s] vendors, suppliers and other business partners will be paid timely and in full for goods and services,” the airline stated. “Because of the company’s current cash position, the need for debtor-in-possession financing is neither considered necessary nor anticipated.”

In other words, filing for Chapter 11 was a carefully plotted strategic decision, not a desperate play for survival. AA views the process as a way to get its cost base more in line with competitors that have already utilized bankruptcy reorganization to lower their debts and expenses (especially labor costs), not as a means of avoiding imminent collapse—or anything close. (The company probably could have carried on outside of bankruptcy for some time, albeit while likely continuing to incur big losses.) Passengers, partners and vendors shouldn’t worry that the company won’t be able to meet its obligations, AA has assured, eliminating what would be a serious concern in most bankruptcy cases.
So I am confused Ms. Walker: is labor the problem, or the victim?
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Old 01-12-2012, 08:40 AM   #5
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Looks like Ms. Walker is just another paid shill for management/capital propaganda....When you look at the lack of vision and direction of American in the post 911 world especially compared to the Crandall years one can only surmise that American has been a rudderless cow that the leaseholders have conveniently milked into a coma.And now they are using ch11 to jumpstart it you can expect to see massive quantities of new equipment and the shedding of old...and the further fleecing of the working class.
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Old 01-12-2012, 11:24 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Iowa Farm Boy View Post
Let's not forget the public's part in this. They're so used to buying cheap chit at Walmart that they expect their airline to do the same. Anything over $400 round trip and they start *****in. Of course they also complain about crappy service, no meal, no legroom, no carry on space, and checked bag fees. I think they're getting much of what they paid for, though not quite all of it yet.

When major players disappear, the rest raise fares, and the cut throats cease ops leaving them high and dry, THEN they'll have gotten their reward.

Honestly, at some point this occupation (not profession) isn't worth the price of admission.
I take it you are part of the public you apparently despise for buying the lower priced product?
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Old 01-12-2012, 11:28 AM   #7
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He forgets to mention the multi-million dollar bonuses management was happy in getting while the company was continuously losing money. Fair and balanced article I must say
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Old 01-12-2012, 12:01 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Columbia View Post
I take it you are part of the public you apparently despise for buying the lower priced product?
Actually I rarely go to Walmart. Target has higher quality goods at the same to slightly higher prices. The employees are pleasant and easier to get along with. I never thought of buying a Yugo etc but instead bought a Chrysler that I drove for almost 200k miles. It's probably still on the road somewhere.

My point is that lowest price is generally not best value, and if you purchase the lowest priced product, don't complain about the quality or expect it to equal the higher priced product.
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Old 01-12-2012, 01:05 PM   #9
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Just say no to any concessions. Make the judge take it away and then the contract is amendable as soon as you exit Chapter 11
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Old 01-13-2012, 08:22 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iowa Farm Boy View Post
Let's not forget the public's part in this. They're so used to buying cheap chit at Walmart that they expect their airline to do the same. Anything over $400 round trip and they start *****in. Of course they also complain about crappy service, no meal, no legroom, no carry on space, and checked bag fees. I think they're getting much of what they paid for, though not quite all of it yet.
Not to mention the growing corporate attitude of "If It's over $400 a ticket we'll do a tele-con."
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