CHICAGO – The union representing Southwest Airlines Co’s passenger service and reservation employees said on Friday it was seeking federal mediation to help contract negotiations after two years of talks.
Last year budget-friendly Southwest reached a contract agreement with a separate union representing its mechanics after seven years of talks fraught with legal disputes and flight disruptions.
Now the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), representing 7,852 Southwest workers, said it has invoked its right to mediation with the National Mediation Board.
“While many contract issues remain unresolved, the one issue that has completely derailed negotiations is Southwest’s treatment of its employees,” IAM said in a statement, citing demands that employees return to work after their shift has ended, forcing overtime.
Instead the airline should properly staff its operation, IAM said.
Southwest did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Under the Railway Labor Act, the law governing labor relations in the airline industry, a union must seek federal mediation for help in resolving negotiations before taking other action. The company can also request mediation.
Analysts have highlighted labor issues as a major concern for airlines this year, in addition to rising fuel costs and the grounding of Boeing Co’s 737 MAX jets after two fatal crashes.
Early talks between Southwest and its pilots union over the contract, which becomes amendable on Aug. 31, are due to begin the first week of March, a spokesman for the union said.
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