The AMFA aircraft maintenance technicians (AMTs) approach the seventh year of contract negotiations with Southwest.
Through countless rounds of frustrating negotiations, we haven’t stopped fighting for what we have earned. Because, if we give in now, what will it mean for the future technicians at Southwest Airlines? And how will it affect AMTs’ position in the industry nationwide?
Southwest used to have the highest-paid technicians in the industry. But since 2012, those wages have been frozen with no raises, bonuses or updated benefits. In the meantime, wages of airline competitors have caught up and surpassed Southwest’s once industry-leading compensation. We are fighting for what we have earned because the thousands of AMTs at Southwest and AMFA (Aircraft Mechanic Fraternal Association) members are experts at their craft. They have certifications, experience and, most importantly, the values that were present for so long at the airline. AMTs are at the front line — and the last line — of safety for passengers, pilots and flight attendants at Southwest.
During our most recent round of negotiations, Southwest reintroduced a proposal to use foreign outsourcing of U.S. aircraft maintenance work. For the past three years of negotiations, Southwest had remained steadfast in its position that it was no longer interested in sending U.S. maintenance work overseas. However, not only has Southwest reversed its position on this issue, the new proposed provision would allow Southwest to use an unlimited amount of foreign outsourcing of heavy maintenance.
The foreign outsourcing vendor ratios are mind boggling. The Aeroman maintenance facility in El Salvador maintains a13:1 ratio of uncertified maintenance personnel to FAA certified licensed maintenance inspectors, while the Haeco maintenance facility in China is even worse at 30:1. Not to mention, there are language barriers and the general lack of English language proficiency among foreign repair workers, considering all manufacturer aircraft repair manuals are in English. The quality of aircraft maintenance, compliance, and safety should be increased by Southwest Airlines executives — not substantially subpar and decreased simply so Southwest can save a buck.
Expertise, experience — these are not replaceable traits; and certainly, cannot be replaced through foreign outsourcing or more domestic outsourcing either.