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United Imposes Mandatory Overtime at More Airports

August 24, 2000|From Reuters

NEW YORK — UAL Corp.'s United Airlines has increased the number of "operational emergencies" it has declared at its airports, including Los Angeles International, allowing the world's largest airline to demand that mechanics work overtime.

United has attributed most of this summer's flight delays and cancellations to pilots refusing overtime. But unlike the pilots, the mechanics contract allows the company to demand overtime if it first declares an operational emergency.

Chicago-based UAL is in contract talks with both its mechanics and its pilots. Talks with the pilots are in federal mediation.

Operational emergencies have now been declared at Los Angeles, Denver, Washington Dulles, Chicago, Indianapolis and Portland, Ore., company and union officials said Wednesday.

The International Assn. of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, which represents United's 15,000 mechanics, said it opposes the step. The company said mandatory overtime has been imposed on no more than 50 junior workers.

Though the union denies any organized action, many of United's mechanics have refused overtime, or used other slowdown tactics since their contract became amendable, the company has said. Mandatory overtime was imposed in Chicago and Dulles last week.

The union plans to closely monitor the company's use of mandatory overtime, and will appeal any perceived violations, IAM spokesman Frank Larkin said. "Any mandatory overtime, even if it's contractual and contractually applied, is a measure that will make things worse rather than better," he said.

United spokesman Joe Hopkins said the company is not making excessive overtime demands. "I was told . . . if you added it all up, it's probably no more than 50 people and often working about four extra hours, or coming in on their day off," he said.

More than 100 mechanics based in Los Angeles called in sick Aug. 13 and 14. The airline is holding hearings, along with the union, as it attempts to discipline 36 mechanics it put on unpaid leave after the sick calls. The hearings may take several weeks, Hopkins said.

UAL shares fell $1 to close at $47.63 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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