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Airline unions take aim at foreign repair stations

AS REPORTED BY EVAN HOOPFER FOR THE DALLAS BUSINESS JOURNAL

Two unions that represent American Airlines mechanics were among a group that penned a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao expressing concern about foreign repair stations.

The group of transportation unions is concerned about three issues: drug and alcohol testing, security screening for safety-sensitive personnel and oversight at aircraft repair stations.

Lack of government intervention on these three issues “has led to a two-tiered safety system with glaring regulatory loopholes,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by leaders of the International Association of Machinists And Aerospace Workers, Transport Workers Union of America, Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, and Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO.

The group of unions represent a host of airlines which do offshore maintenance work. An alliance between the first two, the IAM and TWU, represents American Airlines Group Inc. (Nasdaq: AAL) mechanics, who are locked in a fierce fight with the airline as contract negotiations drag on. The two sides are also embroiled in a legal battle concerning alleged job actions that are impacting flight operations American says unions are encouraging using coded language.

Evidenced by the fact American offered to match what Southwest Airlines Co. (which also conducts offshore maintenance work) recently agreed to pay its mechanics, talks between American and the IAM-TWU alliance go beyond wages. Offshoring maintenance work also plays a part in negotiations, TWU International President John Samuelsen previously said in a statement to the Dallas Business Journal.

The unions, in their letter to Secretary Chao, say foreign maintenance work has different safety standards than in the U.S.

For example, the unions said alcohol and drug tests are federally mandated for aircraft mechanics in the U.S.

“Unfortunately, foreign repair station workers are exempt from any such testing,” the letter reads.

An American spokesperson noted the issue is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the DoT.

On June 14, a judge ordered a temporary restraining order dictating union members not to interfere with American’s operations.

But on Wednesday, American told the court the TRO wasn’t working because the unions weren’t doing enough to enforce it. American said the amount of aircraft flagged for maintenance work has increased, not decreased, since the TRO was implemented.

American and the IAM-TWU alliance are scheduled to go to court Monday in Fort Worth.

 

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