Hawaiian Air flight attendants to vote on tentative contract
By Michele Kayal
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hawaiian Airlines and its flight attendants have reached a tentative 42-month contract agreement that would more than double some employees' pay, increase vacation benefits and introduce the airlines' first domestic partners program.
"We wanted an increase in pay, and we needed to bring our benefits section up to standards," said Sharon Soper, president of Hawaiian's unit of the Association of Flight Attendants. "I think we got a large portion of what we were asking for."
The tentative agreement, reached Friday, would increase the wages of the airline's most junior flight attendants by as much as 139 percent, union officials said.
A newly hired Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant can make roughly $13,500 a year under the current contract, the union said. The most-senior employees, who can make roughly $35,000 a year, according to Soper, will get raises of at least 36 percent by the end of the contract.
Hawaiian Airlines chief executive officer Paul Casey welcomed the agreement and said it is one that honors the flight attendants' important role at the airline.
"The proposed contract recognizes the professionalism of our flight attendants and their value to this company," Casey said, "and accordingly offers substantial pay increases."
The union also received a $1 million signing bonus, and $500,000 in retroactive pay, union officials said.
The agreement also would put Hawaiian flight attendants at the same hourly wage as their more highly paid peers at Aloha Airlines by May 2002, Soper said.
If the agreement is ratified by the local union's 895 members, it will take effect May 1. Soper and other union officers will begin informational sessions on the contract April 9, Soper said, and the mail-in ballots will be counted April 30.
The flight attendants are the second labor group to reach agreement with Hawaiian management, which began negotiating with its five unions about a year ago. The pilots union approved a roughly $30 million agreement with the company in December. That 42-month contract went into effect Jan. 1.
The flight attendants' contract moves the company further away from a legacy of concessions by employees during difficult post-bankruptcy years and helps create a smoother atmosphere for further growth.
"The benefit is that the sooner we can secure agreements with the remaining union bargaining units, the sooner we can move on with the future of Hawaiian Airlines and concentrate on our fleet modernization program, which is center stage right now, and with the continued growth of the company," said Hawaiian spokesman Keoni Wagner.
Hawaiian put its first new Boeing 717 aircraft into interisland service earlier this month and plans to completely replace its interisland fleet by the end of the year, a $430 million investment.
The company still is in negotiations with the International Association of Machinists, the Transport Workers Union and the Communications Workers union.
Michele Kayal can be reached by phone at 525-8024 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org