Continental pilots approve new contract
By BILL HENSEL JR
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
Two unions at Continental Airlines said today their members approved new contracts giving the Houston carrier hundreds of millions in cost cuts.
Unions representing pilots and mechanics union announced this afternoon and evening that their members approved wage and benefit concessions Continental has been seeking. ADVERTISEMENT
The pilots union, however, said final acceptance of its agreement hinges on favorable votes other Continental union groups on contracts that also include concessions.
The other groups include flight attendants and dispatchers. All the employee groups finished voting Wednesday afternoon. Additional announcements are expected later today.
Continental set today as the deadline to achieve $500 million in wage and other cuts from employees or it would be forced to make deeper reductions to avoid bankruptcy.
The concessions to come from the unions represent about $330 million of the total. The cuts for non-union employees had been previously detailed.
The pilots union, composed roughly of 4,000 pilots, approved a new contract by a 58 percent-to- 42 percent vote.
"This pilot group has a record of leadership at Continental and again has stepped up to help the company survive by accepting concessions of $213 million annually," Capt. Jay Panarello, head of the airline's pilots union, said in a statement.
"However, any concessions from this pilot group have always been based on the condition that all employee groups share in the cost cuts."
Mechanics and related workers, represented by the Teamsters, voted 72 percent to 28 percent margin to ratify a new agreement. The contract covers about 3,430 workers.
The Teamsters didn't detail how much its employees gave back in cuts, instead emphasizing what it did for workers.
"This contract strengthens workers' positions at Continental Airlines," said Don Treichler, Teamsters Airline Division Director. "This is a difficult time for airlines, but we fought hard to include job protections -- including a no-furlough clause -- that these skilled, hardworking Teamsters deserve."
The contract includes caps on workers' health insurance costs, a clause that prohibits loss of jobs through furloughs and stronger language in the case of bankruptcy.
Left unchanged during negotiations with management were their 401(k) plan, sick leave and vacation time.