Air- Southwest says baggage handlers might have to justify absences – Chicago Business Journal

Posted: January 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

Jan. 9, 2014

Southwest Airlines has decided to play hardball with the airline\’s unionized baggage handlers who belong to Transport Workers Union Local 555.

After days in which a Southwest spokesman publicly insisted weather was the primary reason for the airline\’s meltdown at Midway Airport a week ago, behind the scenes Southwest management now looks to have reached a different conclusion.

Local 555 President Charles Cerf said this morning the union received a memo from Southwest management on Wednesday. Cerf said he could not comment on the memo nor share its contents. Nor, added Cerf, has the union decided what its response to the memo will be.

Sources familiar with the memo, however, said that it began with some perfunctory thanks from Southwest (NYSE: LUV) management for all the hard work Midway staff put in during the recent storm.

But the memo quickly shifted gears to inform the carrier\’s baggage handlers that any further call-ins that resulted in baggage handlers not showing up for work might have to be verified as reasonable. The memo reportedly said baggage handlers could be required to provide proof their reasons for not reporting to work were justified. Depending on the findings, a baggage handler could be subject to dismissal.

As many as 175 baggage handlers at Midway Airport are believed to have been absent from work a week ago when 16 Southwest planes were each stranded for well over three hours on the airport tarmac. Cerf said a total of more than 580 Southwest baggage handlers work at Midway, and some 7,000 Local 555 members are stationed at various other airports Southwest serves across its route system.

For years, Southwest was known for maintaining relatively peaceful labor relations. But this contract confrontation with baggage handlers may challenge Gary Kelly\’s skills as Southwest CEO in ways he hasn\’t previously been tested.

Local 555 has been in negotiations for a new contract with Southwest for two and a half years. Southwest management has signaled it wants to outsource some baggage handling jobs and use more part-time workers, moves that are at odds with what Local 555 wants in a new contract.

via Southwest says baggage handlers might have to justify absences – Chicago Business Journal.


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