The PBGC today took over the pension plan for United Airlines' flight attendants, leaving the door open for the flight attendants to stage random walkouts, according to Sara Nelson Dela Cruz, spokeswoman for the United Master Executive Council of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO. "This triggers our right to strike," she said, maintaining that transferring the pension plan to the PBGC constituted a "unilateral change" to the union's contract with United.
Jeffrey Speicher, a PBGC spokesman, said the agency took over the United Airlines' Flight Attendants' Defined Benefit Pension Plan and the Management, Administrative and Public Contact Defined Benefit Pension Plan as expected. "We're certainly not going to get in the middle of a collective bargaining dispute between the AFA and the company," Mr. Speicher said.
The flight attendants' union has appeals pending in two courts related to the agreement between United and the PBGC.
United spokeswoman Jean Medina said the airline has a ratified agreement in place with the AFA and a court-approved agreement with the PBGC. "We believe any action to strike would be illegal," Ms. Medina said.
The flight attendants' plan has $1.35 billion in assets and $3.39 billion in liabilities, and the MA&PC plan has $1.44 billion in assets and $3.95 billion in liabilities, according to PBGC estimates. The agency estimates it will be responsible for about $3.52 billion in combined unfunded liabilities for the two plans.
Many workers under the MA&PC plan are represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. IAM spokesman Joseph Tiberi said United employees represented by the IAM will begin voting on their proposed new contract July 11; results will be announced July 22.