SW Airlines Flight Attendants Seek Pensions, Pay Hikes

August 13, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Southwest Airlines flight attendants are touring airports as part of a protest campaign about the workers' lack of a pension or retirement savings program among other issues.

In addition to pension benefits, the flight attendants are seeking as part of contract talks a “significant” pay hike and a change in the requirement that they clean airplanes between flights without pay, the Associated Press reported.

The Transport Workers Union Local 556, which represents the bargaining unit, estimates that the typical Southwest flight attendant works nearly 300 hours a year without compensation. Christine Buggy, a Chicago-based flight attendant, said she put in nearly six hours for free during a three-day shift this week.

Southwest spokeswoman Ginger Hardage disputed the notion of work without pay. “Our flight attendants are paid by the trip, and the philosophical thinking is that the (ground) duties are included within that pay,” she told the Associated Press. Hardage said Southwest is committed to keeping its cost structure that has allowed it to weather a prolonged industry downturn that devastated many of its rivals

The flight attendant protest was scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday at Texas airports and at Southern California facilities next week.