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Western Aids Employees in Hunt for Jobs : Some Prefer to Quit Rather Than Transfer After Delta Merger

March 13, 1987|ROBERT E. DALLOS | Times Staff Writer

Western Airlines sent letters Thursday to 250 companies in Southern California in an effort to find jobs for Western employees who have turned down transfers after the airline merges with Delta Airlines on April 1.

Western has about 5,000 employees here, and Delta says none will be fired as a result of the merger. However, about 2,000 have been told that they will have to move to Delta's headquarters in Atlanta or to other locations to keep their jobs. It is not yet known how many will accept Delta's offer of positions in other cities.

The approximately 3,000 Western employees who will remain here after the merger as part of Delta's staff are mostly pilots, ticket agents and flight attendants. Western has been a Delta subsidiary since January but will not lose its separate identity until April 1.

In the letter to prospective employers, Joseph C. Hilly, Western vice president for employee relations, said: "Our loss is your gain--maybe. I intend to do everything possible to aid our proven professionals acquire new positions. . . . Western's people are the resources that made the Delta merger possible. Those who must leave us now may become outstanding performers for you."

Assistance With Resumes

The Western workers have been aided in preparing resumes that will be sent to companies expressing interest in hiring them. A Western spokesman said Thursday that 300 employees have submitted resumes so far.

Of those who must move or lose their jobs, about 500 are non-union headquarters office workers such as maintenance supervisors, financial workers and human resources employees. The rest are contract union workers, such as mechanics.

The non-union workers received letters Feb. 17 from Russell H. Heil, Delta's senior vice president for personnel, telling them that they would be asked to relocate. The union workers got their letters March 2. Each group had 10 days to decide their future.

In addition to promising that the merger will trigger no employee dismissals, Delta has also said that it will raise the salaries of Western employees to Delta's levels. According to Airline Economics, a Washington consulting firm, average compensation for Delta employees was $51,200 a year, including fringe benefits, during the first quarter of last year, the most recent period for which figures are available. Average compensation at Western during that period was $36,500.

Inquiries About Mechanics

Hilly said in an interview that even before his letter was sent Thursday he had received inquiries about some mechanics from aerospace giant McDonnell Douglas, which has a major facility in Long Beach. The trouble with those jobs, however, Hilly said, is that the Western workers would have to start on the bottom of the ladder at McDonnell Douglas with considerably lower salaries than they now earn.

The Hilly letter is the latest in Western's efforts to help employees affected by the merger, which was announced in September.

Many employees have taken part in company-sponsored "rap sessions" dealing with what Hilly called the "merger syndrome." Three psychologists on Western's staff who ordinarily had worked with alcohol- and substance-abuse cases conducted the sessions.

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