Negotiations 101

How Do Negotiations Work?

Now that we’ve voted in AFA, the business of negotiating our first agreement starts in earnest. Several steps will follow:

The Negotiating Committee will be made up of our two appointed officers, Tahja Roberts and John Mayo, who will be joined by an AFA professional staff negotiator. The staff negotiator is trained and experienced in all facets of bargaining, and will assist your Flight Attendant Negotiating Committee throughout the entire process.

Training: The Negotiating Committee will be officially trained by AFA International staff in Washington, DC.   Not only will they be educated in all areas of bargaining under the Railway Labor Act (the labor law that governs negotiations in the airline industry) but they will be introduced to AFA bargaining experts, researchers and attorneys. The resources and support available for assistance will be explained.

Negotiations Survey: Your Negotiating Committee will work with the staff negotiator to craft a survey which will be available to each Silver Airways Flight Attendant. Your survey responses will help the Committee determine bargaining priorities and assist in crafting proposals to give to management. The Negotiating Committee is your voice at the bargaining table, so it is important to respond to the survey.

What exactly is a proposal?

It is a written document that contains suggested provisions to be included in a new contract. Over the entire course of negotiations, your Negotiating Committee will make proposals that lay out all of the requirements for everything governing your work life. However, each negotiating session will deal with proposals covering a limited scope of your work rules.

Opening Proposals and the Start of Negotiations: Working with the staff negotiator and guided by the survey responses, the Committee will compile proposals to give to management at the bargaining table.

How do negotiations actually work?

Both sides, management and the union, literally sit at a table across from each other. Proposals are almost always in writing and are passed across the table to the other party. Usually there are some explanations and discussions about the proposals and then the parties will “caucus.” Caucusing means that each side goes to its separate meeting room to discuss privately what happened at the table, to prepare a response to a proposal, and to prep for the next session.

Typically, the parties meet about once a month for 3-4 days in a row. However, sometime meetings are more frequent. How much progress happens in a session depends on a lot of factors.

Typical Path Is from Less to More Controversial Issues: Each contract is comprised of many ‘sections’, including Compensation, Scheduling, Hours of Service, Grievance Procedure and Leaves of Absence.   Normally, negotiations start out with discussions about sections which are “non-economic” – they don’t really cost the company money, for example, Grievance Procedure. As talks progress, discussion focuses on the ‘money’ sections: Compensation, Expenses, Scheduling, etc. Progress may slow down at this juncture.

Your management has told AFA that they do not want to drag out negotiations and want this process to be wrapped up expeditiously. We couldn’t agree more and look forward to sitting down with them to set a course forward to a new contract.