Southwest Airlines tries again to win contract with plane cleaners, including bigger raises

Southwest Airlines has reached a contractual agreement with the 170-member union that represents workers who clean planes, after workers overwhelmingly rejected a contract this summer.

New Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association deal gives immediate 12% raises to appearance techs with at least four years of experience and will raise the starting wage to $19.14 an hour by August 2026, according to a draft agreement shared with members.

It’s one of many less-publicized deals Dallas-based Southwest is trying to complete, though the company has struggled to succeed with task forces such as customer service employees, regulators flight attendants and aircraft cleaners. Meanwhile, pilots and flight attendants are in the midst of tense clashes involving picketing at Dallas Love Field near headquarters.

Southwest Airlines pilots at Dallas Love Field: ‘Our passengers and pilots deserve better’

Southwest has some of the toughest standoffs with groups closer to the company’s minimum wage scale of $17 an hour, such as customer service employees and appearance technicians. Both task forces have rejected contract proposals so far this year.

“Our technicians seemingly contribute to Southwest’s success every day, and I’m proud that both bargaining committees have reached an agreement that rewards our employees for their continued hard work,” said Adam Carlislevice president of labor relations at Southwest Airlines, in a statement.

The plane cleaners’ union said it believed the proposal filled in the gaps in the deal that was proposed and rejected on July 1. This agreement provided for increases of 6.25% for the members.

Southwest executives said staffing has been one of the airlines’ biggest challenges this year. The company added more than 7,000 workers in 2022 and in May finally returned to pre-pandemic employment levels.

“About 75% of those hires were in our airport operations and about 20% were in flight crews,” Southwest President Mike Van de Ven said. staff to support both our customers and our employees.”

Southwest has seen some of its fiercest competition for employees at the bottom of its pay scale as competing industries range from retail and restaurants to hotels and customer service. The the average salary in the United States for non-supervisory workers rose 8.6% in the past year after rising 12.4% the previous year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Over the past two years, these same workers have averaged 22.3% wage gains after seeing wages rise 26% over the previous eight years.

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