October 12, 2023
Mediation Under the Railway Labor Act--What does it mean for you?
Dear AMFA-Spirit Members:
After a year of unproductive negotiations with Spirit Airlines (Spirit), the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) has requested that the National Mediation Board (NMB) appoint a federal mediator to oversee the bargaining process. The Company negotiators do not seem committed to the process of working toward a contract. In addition, they have shown no indication that continued direct negotiations would be productive, without the assistance of a federal mediator. It’s our opinion that the Spirit Negotiating Committee, especially its lead negotiator, have deliberately stalled negotiations in the hope that a possible merger with JetBlue could effect a change in union representation.
Their hope might be misplaced because in 2023, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sued to block the proposed merger on antitrust grounds, alleging that the proposed merger would eliminate about half of all ultra-low-cost seats in the industry. A trial on the merger is scheduled to begin later this year. Therefore, by requesting mediation, yet another federal agency will now have watchful eyes over Spirit’s conduct.
When these negotiations began, AMFA anticipated both parties would reach a tentative agreement within a reasonable timeframe, especially considering the high turnover of Aircraft Maintenance Technicians (AMTs) that Spirit was experiencing as a result of its substandard compensation and inequitable work rules. AMFA firmly believes Spirit realizes the serious trouble it has hiring and retaining skilled and experienced AMTs but has made a conscious decision to stall negotiations in hopes that its proposed merger with JetBlue occurs before a contract is reached. This type of gamesmanship with your careers is entirely unacceptable. Therefore, your Negotiating Committee decided it was necessary in your best interest of the membership to file for mediation. Simply put, Spirit has failed to participate in meaningful good-faith negotiations with their AMT-skilled professionals' certified bargaining representative.
An overview of what this means to you and how the mediation process works is provided below. It is essential to stay informed as we go through the mediation process and not let rumors be your source of information. Take the time to reach out to your Negotiating Committee Representatives and make sure your specific questions are answered. For a comprehensive review of the technical aspects of the mediation process, please visit the National Mediation Board’s website.
There you will be able to thoroughly research the airline's collective bargaining process, including mediation. In addition, several AMFA representatives have been through the NMB mediation process previously with other carriers and can share some of those experiences, which provide practical details beyond the technical outline of Railway Labor Act (RLA) negotiations found by visiting the link above.
Mediators typically have previous background from either union or company labor relations in the airline industry. They use a variety of techniques to ensure parties are productive in their negotiations. The mediator will set the bargaining schedule and dictate the location for each negotiation session. They can help the groups find creative ways to break through on areas where they are stuck and work to help each side find a compromise that will bring the parties closer to a complete TA. It is important to point out that mediators cannot force either side to accept or agree to a proposal. Rather, they offer ideas and suggestions on ways the parties may bridge the gap between their respective positions.
In addition to, and separate from, the mediation process, AMFA stands ready to hold Spirit accountable if they threaten or intimidate our members away from performing their responsibilities as FAA-licensed AMTs. Compliance with maintenance manual procedures is imperative to maintain the highest level of safety expected of a licensed AMT. It is important to remember that your A&P license and public safety are priority number one. AMFA therefore pledges its unyielding adherence to these precepts for the advancement of public safety, aviation, and for the dignity of our craft. You, as Spirit’s AMTs, play a vital role in ensuring safe, reliable, and on-time operations for the flying public, flight crews, and the company.
You spoke loud and clear when you voted overwhelmingly to join AMFA. Your message was that Spirit had failed to recognize your hard work and dedication with industry-standard compensation, work rules, and benefits. In mediation, our members can expect Spirit negotiators to actually focus and stop playing games, as the mediator will ensure each side arrives to bargaining properly prepared to work on the designated articles and brings the appropriate stakeholders to the session to work the issues through to resolution.
Mediation is the logical next step under the RLA to assist us in reaching a Tentative Agreement worthy of your review and consideration. Remember that through your vote, you will get the final say on any tentatively agreed-upon contract. For now, please continue to stay focused on your job and continue delivering the outstanding, professional aircraft maintenance you are known for.
Government oversight in the form of NMB mediation is the first step in forcing Spirit to finally move forward in our negotiations. The days of Spirit negotiators showing up unprepared, disinterested, and disrespectful are over. And, as always, AMFA and its members will refrain from any strike activity or job action until the NMB releases us from mediation.
AMFA-Spirit Negotiating Committee