A new attendance policy instituted at American Airlines is receiving a strong reaction from its employees. Under the new leave system, flight attendants would receive “points” related to their attendance record. The accumulation of points results in disciplinary actions ranging from mandatory performance reviews to termination of employment.
Flight attendants could receive unwanted points for taking more than two personal days in a row, showing up late for work, not showing up for a scheduled flight, or calling out sick during the industry’s three busiest times of the year, which include the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and the Christmas/New Year’s Day period.
If a flight attendant accumulates 4 to 6 points within a twelve-month period, they would be subject to a performance review. After 8 points, a final warning would be issued. With 10 points, their employment would be terminated.
Flight Attendants Have Made Their Displeasure Known
Flight attendants and their union representatives have voiced concerns over the new policy, which they believe is punitive in nature. The president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants has filed a formal objection to the point system, which she calls “unreasonable” and “disastrous” to the operations of the airlines.
American Airlines has issued a statement standing by its policy, which they believe “encourages attendance accountability” necessary to provide superior customer service to American Airlines customers.
American Airlines flight attendants have voiced outrage over the new attendance policy, in light of other allegations of ongoing problematic working conditions.
Within the last several years, flight attendants have raised their concerns about cabin fumes, foreign foodborne diseases, unhealthy sleep patterns, and radiation exposure, which they allege directly result in employee illnesses.
Some flight attendants blame inefficient and improperly implemented and programmed scheduling systems as the true causes of attendance issues at the airlines.
Another area of concern for flight attendants has been “toxic” uniform fabric. The uniforms have been tested positive for the presence of chemicals including cadmium, formaldehyde, toluene, cobalt, captafol, nickel, copper, antimony, benzyl benzoate, hexyl cinnamic aldehyde, and benzaldehyde.
Flight attendants allege that wearing the uniform has caused severe allergic reactions such as respiratory distress, nausea, cognitive dysfunction, headaches, and skin rashes. A class action suit filed in 2017 by over 100 American Airlines flight attendants seeks compensation for the health reactions and chronic illnesses they allege are related to the uniform fabric.
Further Unresolved Matters
Industry watchdogs caution that the new policy may not have the desired effect of decreasing lateness or absenteeism. Flight attendants may take advantage of the new point system, to call out if they believe the day off is worth the penalty points. Knowing exactly how many points they will get for their behavior could allow employees to figure out just how much they can bend the rules without putting themselves over the point limit.
American Airlines employs over 27,000 flight attendants who would be effected by the new rule. The new point-based attendance policy is scheduled to go into effect on October 1, the same day American Airlines and US Airways flight attendants will be governed by the same collective bargaining agreement. The two carriers merged in 2013 creating the “new” American Airlines.
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