American Airlines to lay off 63 in Miami
By Scott Blake
American Airlines revealed this week that it plans to lay off 63 employees at Miami International Airport as South Florida's dominant carrier goes through bankruptcy reorganization.
American said the local layoffs will affect non-unionized workers and are scheduled to take effect Oct. 19, as part of a plan to reduce its non-union workforce by about 1,200 positions companywide.
American distributed notices to about 63 cargo employees at Miami International as part of a restructuring plan as the airline attempts to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Part of the plan for non-union employees companywide calls for "outsourcing all cargo agent functions and some airport services agent functions," the airline said in a statement Tuesday to Miami Today.
"The goal for all of our employee groups is the same — to achieve necessary cost savings through sustainable, structural changes that will lay the foundation for a new, profitable and growing American Airlines."
American, still among South Florida's largest private employers, indicated the number of Miami employees that actually will be laid off in October may be less than announced because some are expected to qualify for a "voluntary separation program."
The program provides eligible employees with varying amounts of regular and special severance payments and air travel privileges, based on age, company seniority and other factors.
"Our affected people had an opportunity to sign up for an early-out voluntary separation program, and though those options have not been awarded yet, it was necessary to forecast staffing reductions and issue [layoff] notices where required by federal or state law," said Dori Robau Alvarez, an American spokeswoman in Coral Gables.
"Thus," she added, "it is likely some employees who may be granted an early-out option will also receive a [layoff] notice, but for them, it is merely a formality."
She said no decision has been made yet on which company or companies will provide the outsourced workers to American.
Last month, American filed notice that it plans to lay off four employees at Miami International on Aug. 24.
Ms. Alvarez said non-union employees are not the only American workers being affected by the restructuring.
"Every work group at American Airlines — union, independent, management and support staff — all have a specific cost savings target they must reach," she said. "How each group gets there varies."
Meanwhile, a US Bankruptcy Court judge in New York City has given American's parent company — AMR Corp. — until late Dec. 28 to file its own bankruptcy reorganization plan. The ruling last week was supported by AMR's creditors and US Airways Group Inc., which has been seeking a merger with American.
The ruling comes as American appears to be seriously considering a merger and as it continues to negotiate deals with its unions.
Also this month, the Allied Pilots Association, the union representing some 10,000 American Airlines pilots and which has been pressing for a merger with US Airways, praised a recent letter to employees from AMR Chairman and CEO Tom Horton in which he discussed the potential for consolidation.
"Mr. Horton's letter represents an important milestone by acknowledging what we have believed for some time — that consolidation represents the most promising path for our airline's future," the union said in a statement.
The union also said it has reached a tentative agreement with management that would give the union a 13.5% equity stake in the restructured airline, adding it would provide the union with "significant influence over strategic decisions" during the process.
"The biggest remaining questions," the union added, "center on who manages the new entity and whether a merger occurs during AMR's Chapter 11 restructuring or thereafter."
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