JetBlue’s inflight crewmembers have rejected a tentative agreement between the airline and its union. The Transport Workers Union (TWU) represent’s JetBlue’s cabin crew and informed the airline on Friday that the tentative agreement did not receive full-fledged approval.
JetBlue’s crew rejects the tentative agreement
Inflight crewmembers voted on a tentative agreement negotiated between TWU and JetBlue and decided to reject the proposition. This was not the desired outcome from neither the TWU negotiating team nor the airline, but the tally is final. TWU did not release the final vote tally.
JetBlue’s head of Customer Experience, Ian Deason, stated the following:
“We are disappointed in the results of the vote. Both the TWU and JetBlue worked through unprecedented circumstances to reach an agreement that was fair to our inflight crewmembers. We will work with TWU to determine next steps.”
The TWU did note that it will be soliciting the reasons for the rejection from its members as it prepares to return to the negotiating table with JetBlue. The TWU did not name any specific reasons why the contract was rejected.
Now, the airline and TWU have to go back to the drawing board. The airline and the union will need to regroup and come up with a new plan. All previously agreed upon terms in the contract will be subject to renegotiation.
TWU hoped the measure would pass
Mike Mayes, International Administrative Vice President at TWU, sent a message to JetBlue’s inflight crew on Thursday pushing for the ratification of the tentative agreement. He cited the difficult challenges, such as the amount of debt the airline industry has had to take on and the difficult recovery ahead, as a reason to push for the ratification of a contract.
The negotiating team has been working on this since June of 2018, which was one of the better times in the industry. Mr. Mayes stated he believed the negotiating team had brought the best contract they could do given the uncertain nature of the industry now.
While he conceded that not everything the crew wanted was achieved in the first contract, the union leadership position was to secure what they could as other airlines furloughed thousands of employees.
Why this matters
JetBlue and its cabin crew do not have a formal contract. It was only back in April of 2018 that flight attendants voted in favor of unionizing under the TWU. Before that, JetBlue had a direct relationship with its flight attendants.
Without a formal contract in place, flight attendants do not have all of the protections they otherwise would. For example, a contract with pilots forced Hawaiian to temporarily suspend its ‘Ohana service after furloughs of mainline pilots.
Contracts can be some incredibly powerful tools for employees when an airline is faced with a crisis. Most, but not all, airlines are unionized. While nearly every airline has asked unions for certain concessions, JetBlue is the only one voting on a formal contract in the middle of the crisis. Without one, the airline is subject to fewer constraints regarding any actions it wants to take. However, any such actions would also create some bad blood with the cabin crew union, which may lead to deteriorated relations in the future and jeopardize any concessions JetBlue wants from its crew.
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