It really doesn,t matter that the work groups have contracts if the company wants to go for pay cuts they can do so at anytime.
Actually, it does matter.
As you're probably aware, under the Railway Labor Act, contracts at air carriers never expire, but become amendable at the end of the term. Until both the management and the union agree upon and ratify a new agreement, the provisions of the old one remain in effect.
This means that management has to abide by the old contract, pay rates and all, until a new one is agreed upon and voted in. No matter how badly they may want to, they cannot impose a new set of wages and other contractual items at will.
The only way management can get out from under such an agreement is to go before a bankruptcy judge and tell them that the contract is so burdensome that they cannot possibly make money under it, and ask for it to be thrown out.
The problem for management is that in order to do this, they actually have to be in bankruptcy first. And you can't just go into bankruptcy for the hell of it; you have to show that you are insolvent and in need of protection from creditors first. Alaska is years away from this, even at today's rate of losses.
Even then, there is no guarantee that a judge will say the contracts are so big that the company cannot survive under them. So it's all a big, embarrassing, expensive crap shoot.
A crap shoot, mind you, that carries enough of a stigma for a small carrier to lose a great deal of business, possibly eclipsing the amount of savings they're going after in the first place!
So Alaska's management is definitely LOOKING for voluntary wage givebacks (especially from the pilots, who are now the 2nd highest paid in the industry, as are the flight attendants), but they've got a snowball's chance in hell of getting the amount they're looking for.
Most of the savings they're looking for will come in the form of a single health plan for all employees, axing pension benefits for all new employees, etc.
"In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem - government IS the problem." - Ronald Reagan
Comments made here are my own and are not intended to represent the official position of Alaska Air Group