Tulsa, Okla. - Contract talks between the world's largest airline and its large workforce of mechanics, including more than 4,000 of those in Tulsa, have stalled and will not move forward until further notice.
Transport Workers Union Local 514 President Dale Danker told FOX23 that Wednesday will mark 50 days since contract negotiations between one of Tulsa's largest employers, American Airlines, and its mechanics stopped.
The TWU and the International Association of Machinists (who represent former U.S. Airways mechanics) have been talking with American corporate since the merger with U.S. Airways was finalized in August 2015.
"We want to protect jobs here in Tulsa and throughout the system nationwide," Danker said. "We don't want to see these good jobs that are focused on safety leave for El Salvador."
Danker said talks stalled once the two unions and American reached an impasse on what type of maintenance work could be handled by private contractors in Latin American and Asia.
"I want the flying public to know that you're going to be getting on an airplane that is taken apart in El Salvador by a guy who is making two dollars an hour, which is good for him, but the safety regulations and oversight are not the same as if he was one of us working up here in the U.S. under strict F.A.A. regulations and procedures," he said about proposals to split a section of American maintenance with international companies that do overhauling and maintenance for other airlines.
Danker said as long as the contract talks are stalled, American employees in Tulsa will continue to work under terms, conditions, and benefits that were negotiated by previous American Airlines management when the airline was bankrupt and asked employees to take cuts.
"They're making billions, and we're still working under terms that were meant to save the airline when it was broke," Danker said. He went on to say that aside from a pay adjustment that happened earlier in contract talks, American mechanics have not benefited from the airline's profitable status like pilots, flight attendants, and other employees have.
American Airlines sent a statement to FOX23 confirming talks with the two mechanics unions have stalled, but the airline also felt that it put out its best and final offer.
“As we have consistently said from the start, we are focused on reaching an industry-leading contract that takes care of our team members. The proposal we have on the table would make American’s maintenance employees the highest compensated among their peers, while making sure everyone who has a job today has one tomorrow, and ensuring American continues to insource more fleet service and maintenance work than anyone else. We believe it’s a really great offer, and one we’re proud to have put forward. We look forward to getting back to the table when the Association is ready.”
To put things in perspective, Southwest Airlines recently announced it reached an agreement with its mechanics union, and those talks took six years. Their union is still not happy with that agreement.
Danker said the TWU is planning to highlight the dangers of having airplanes repaired overseas as opposed to American citizens working on American Airlines planes. Billboards, newspaper ads, and other forms of public messaging will be utilized in the coming months.
"When these planes that have already been sent over there come back to America, we've seen time and time again, something installed wrong or not repaired the way it should've been, and thankfully we've been able to catch most of the mistakes and fix them ourselves," Danker said.