Air- Does Southwest Airlines have a big problem with baggage handlers at Midway? – Chicago Business Journal

Posted: January 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

Jan. 6, 2014

Four days after 16 Southwest Airlines planes were stranded on the tarmac at Chicago\’s Midway Airport for four hours or more, the carrier still is struggling to return operations at the south side airport to normal.But as passenger outrage over the debacle continues to boil, sources indicate a chief reason for Southwest\’s abysmal performance Thursday may have a lot to do with the carrier\’s strained relations with unionized baggage handlers at Midway and around the country.Sources say as many as 175 Southwest baggage handlers that normally would have been on duty Thursday at Midway were not at the airport that night.In an interview Charles Cerf, an executive with Dallas-based Transport Workers Union Local 555 that represents some 7,500 Southwest baggage handlers, said a number of workers at Midway simply couldn\’t get to their jobs last Thursday because of snow that began in Chicago on New Year\’s Eve and continued through Thursday night, making travel around the city difficult.Cerf also maintained Southwest NYSE: LUV management made no provisions for additional employees to help out in the absence of the carrier\’s regular baggage handling crew Thursday. \”Since Friday we\’ve been flying some of our workers from other cities into Midway to help deal with the baggage,\” said Cerf.Weather issues notwithstanding, Southwest\’s ugly problems at Midway could be a reflection of its longstanding poor relations with TWU Local 555 — relations that have grown more difficult as the union has been unable to get a new contract with the airline.Local 555 represents thousands of operations, provisions and freight-handling workers at Southwest, as well as baggage handlers. \”We\’ve been talking for two and a half years about a new contract,\” said Cerf, who maintained the carrier and the union are really no closer to an agreement than they were when talks started.The next meeting between Local 555 and Southwest management isn\’t slated until at least Feb. 18. In the interim a federal mediator has been working to help bring the two sides closer together.A Southwest spokesman said Monday he was not fully apprised about the state of contract negotiations with Local 555 and could not yet comment on what role baggage handling or lack thereof may have played in Thursday\’s nasty situation at Midway Airport. \”This is the first day we\’re really had to sit down and analyze what happened Thursday,\” said the Southwest spokesman.But Cerf said TWU Local 555 has not been happy about Southwest management\’s insistence on replacing union workers with outsourced and/or part-time workers at airports where the carrier operates. \”None of those workers would get heath insurance or share in company profits like our union members do,\” explained Cerf.But failure to get a new contract is just one of Local 555\’s issues with Southwest Airlines. Cerf also maintained Southwest has been trying to get by with too few baggage handlers for too long at Midway Airport. \”They were short to begin with,\” said Cerf. Asked how far back he was referring to, Cerf added \”mid-2013.\”

via Does Southwest Airlines have a big problem with baggage handlers at Midway? – Chicago Business Journal.

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