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Seniority Rules

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 7 February, 2010 by Thomas

The airline industry is not a meritocracy.  Everything we get or “earn” is based on seniority – our pay, trip pairings, days off, vacation, travel privileges, and pretty much anything and everything else.  We realize this is how things are done when we sign up and are OK with it; it’s really the fairest way to do things in most instances.  The longer we’re at our airline the higher our quality of life.  Personally, I find it comforting to know that all I have to do is bide my time and eventually I’ll have a good work schedule with the days off I want earning a living wage.  I just have to pay my dues and my time will come.  I wasn’t the first to have a crappy schedule with low pay, and I won’t be the last – at least I hope not.

However, there has come an occasion where I am not OK with the seniority system.  We’ve recently had a flight attendant come back on line after being out on medical leave.  Now, I don’t know this person from a ham sandwich, but if what I’ve been told is correct then I don’t think she should even be employed with my airline anymore.  Yeah, that may sound harsh, but there should be a statute of limitations on how long one can be on medical leave and keep a job.  I’ve been told that after being hired by the airline and working on line for six months she went out on workman’s comp.  After about two years of being on workman’s comp, she took a medical leave of absence for about four years.  Our union contract provides that employees out on these types of leave not only retain seniority but also accrue it.

On paper this seems like a good idea, but in practice (obviously) it has its flaws.  I think after two years one should no longer accrue seniority, just retain it.  There are other types of leave that we can take that only allow for accrual for the first 30 days.  Why for these two is accrual indefinite?  She only worked for 6 months, left for six years, and now that she’s decided she wants to come back she comes back at number 34 on the company-wide seniority list!  I’ve only been flying for less than two years, but I’ve worked more than she has.  Something doesn’t seem fair about this.  It is what it is, and there’s nothing I can do about it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.  And it’s not like I have a problem with her personally, I just think our union screwed up when they negotiated this part of our contract.

Even though my company-wide seniority has gone up three spots in the last month, now that’s she back, she’s bumped me down one spot on my base’s seniority list.  Being on the bubble of holding a line and being on reserve makes this a big deal, which is why I’m so upset about this.  No one senior to me ever leaves my base; they all leave from the Charlotte base.  Eventually, I think I might like to be based there because the trips are better, but since it’s so much bigger I’m even farther away from holding a line there.  Maybe this flight attendant will realize she doesn’t really like the job all that much and decide to do something else.  Even better, maybe the industry as a whole will improve beyond anyone’s wildest imagination and I can get called up to the big show.  A boy can hope, right?

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