United Airlines pilots, flight attendants fight against furloughs

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WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The pilots’ union at United Airlines reached an agreement Wednesday with the carrier to prevent the furlough of nearly 3,000 pilots at risk without an extension of federal aid that expires Oct. 1.

The Air Line Pilots Association notified members about the deal, which would need to be ratified by pilots.

Other details about what the union described as an agreement in principle were not disclosed. The union’s top official at United, Todd Insler, said the group would not consider pay-rate reductions or other unacceptable changes in their contract with United.

Airline representatives did not immediately respond for comment.

United said last week that it expected to furlough 16,370 employees in October, including 2,850 pilots, to shrink the airline in line with falling travel demand during the pandemic. United expects to operate only 34% of its normal schedule this month and 40% next month.

In July, United warned 36,000 workers they could be furloughed or laid off. Since then, 7,400 employees took buyouts or early retirement, and up to 20,000 accepted reduced work schedules or took voluntary leaves of absence, reducing the financial pressure on the airline to cut more jobs.

Flight attendants in the industry are also fighting for an extension of the Payroll Support Program, which was passed under the coronavirus economic relief program, CARES Act.

Unions representing employees at United and other U.S. passenger airlines are lobbying Congress for $25 billion more to in payroll relief from taxpayers to avoid layoffs. The airlines got a similar amount in March, which included a ban on involuntary job cuts through Sept. 30.

Flight attendants also protested potential furloughs by marching outside of Capitol Hill Wednesday.

Airlines say if Congress can’t reach an agreement by the first of the month then thousands of flight attendants, baggage handlers, and other airline employees could be furloughed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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