The preservation of jobs at America West Airlines and stable employment for US Airways workers are the major concerns of labor unions representing the more than 44,000 employees at both airlines.
America West employs more than 14,000 workers, including 1,900 pilots, and US Airways has 30,100 employees, including 3,000 pilots.
The merger involves combining employees from both airlines over two to three years and minimizing disruptions or dislocations among them, according to America West Holdings Corp. and US Airways Group, parent companies of the airlines.
Reaction of employee representatives of America West and US Airways airlines reached by the Tribune soon after the announced merger Thursday was mixed, but job security loomed as a top priority, especially among America West representatives.
JR Baker, chairman of the America West Airlines unit of the Air Line Pilots Association, said an agreement is being sought to develop a combined seniority list of pilots from both airlines.
The list would be the result of negotiations between both airline pilots’ associations.
"Clearly, we would view a date-of-hire type of integration (of the list) as a completely unworkable solution for the America West pilots," Baker said. "While details of the transaction continue to evolve, we remain focused on our priorities: Protecting and defending the career expectations of America West pilots."
If no agreement is reached, the process of developing a list would be decided through mediation and arbitration, Baker said.
"We are a vital part of America West, and we will not allow our pilots’ career expectations to be sacrificed as a result of our airline’s success," he added.
Bill McGlashen, president of America West Association of Flight Attendants, said the merger presents an on-going challenge to save the jobs of the Tempe-based airline’s 2,650 flight attendants.
"We’ve been negotiating, and we will continue to negotiate," said McGlashen, who represents attendants who work from both Las Vegas and Phoenix.
"Our main goal is to preserve the jobs of all the (America West) flight attendants," McGlashen said. "We will insist on it."
He said he will meet with representatives of both airlines today to continue discussions about the future jobs and benefits for America West attendants.
Flight attendants for US Airways, meanwhile, are more optimistic about the merger, said Teddy Xidas, spokeswoman for the US Airways Association of Flight Attendants.
"It’s positive news for a change," said Xidas, whose association represents 4,400 flight attendants.
"We’ve gone through mergers before, but this time it seems like it will work," Xidas said.
She added, however "we could lose some attendants if there is a decision to send back some aircraft. We hope not."
Jack Stepan, spokesman for the US Airways Air Line Pilots Association, said the association was pleased with the merger agreement.
"We’re cautiously optimistic about the future," said Stepan, whose association represents 3,000 pilots, including about 1,500 who are on furlough.
"There were other alternatives (potential mergers) out there, but this one with America West looks good. We’re excited about becoming a partner in forming a major, low-cost airline," Stepan said.
Stepan said pilots and other US Airways employees couldn’t afford to continue to remain in bankruptcy status. So Thursday’s merger announcement was good news to many of them.
"Our pilots took a hit in pay and benefits to reach this point," Stepan said.
Andy Marshall, secretarytreasurer of Phoenix-based Teamsters Local 104, which represents America West’s mechanics, customer-service personnel and stock clerks, is meeting with company officials today to get details of the merger.
"We still don’t know how it will affect our members, but we’ll soon find out," Marshall said.
US Airways’ 4,500 mechanics and 5,000 service representatives are members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the Communications Workers of America respectively.
Both union offices were closed, and representatives were unavailable late Thursday.