United plans to fur­lough 16,000 work­ers, fewer than ex­pected

Chicago Sun-Times - - BUSINESS - BY DAVID KOENIG AP Airlines Writer

United Airlines said Wed­nes­day it plans to fur­lough 16,370 em­ploy­ees in Oc­to­ber, a smaller num­ber than the air­line pre­dicted in July be­cause thou­sands of work­ers agreed to leave with the travel in­dus­try fac­ing a slow re­cov­ery from the pan­demic.

Air­line of­fi­cials had out­lined 36,000 po­ten­tial fur­loughs in July. Since then, thou­sands of work­ers took early re­tire­ment, buy­outs, or long-term leaves of ab­sence.

United of­fi­cials said the forced job cuts will be­gin Oct. 1, when a pro­hi­bi­tion on fur­loughs ends. They said the fur­loughs would be post­poned if Washington ap­proves an­other $25 bil­lion in air­line aid.

Flight at­ten­dants will bear the brunt of the cuts, with 6,920 get­ting fur­lough no­tices. About 2,850 pi­lots, 2,260 air­port-based em­ploy­ees, 2,010 main­te­nance work­ers and 1,400 man­age­ment and sup­port staff would also lose their jobs.

The fig­ures do not in­clude the 7,400 em­ploy­ees who took buy­outs or early re­tire­ment. Up to 20,000 more ac­cepted re­duced work sched­ules or took leaves.

Most union em­ploy­ees in the air­line in­dus­try whose jobs are cut have re­hir­ing rights — man­age­ment and ad­min­is­tra­tive staff gen­er­ally do not. United be­gan the year with 96,000 em­ploy­ees, 84% of whom were rep­re­sented by unions.

The flight at­ten­dants’ union said United’s an­nounce­ment un­der­states the job losses. The union said more than 15,000 flight at­ten­dants will leave the United pay­roll un­less Washington ap­proves more pay­roll aid for airlines, and an­other 3,400 who stay to keep health in­sur­ance will get no guar­an­tee of work or in­come.

“Where will we go? The un­em­ploy­ment line,” said Sara Nel­son, pres­i­dent of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Flight At­ten­dants. “The sit­u­a­tion in the air­line in­dus­try is not bet­ter than July when fur­lough no­tices went out. It’s ac­tu­ally worse.”

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