US Airways cutting more than 90 jobs in Pittsburgh

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Pittsburgh will bear the brunt of another round of cutbacks by US Airways, losing more than 90 of the 176 jobs the airline is slashing in 11 cities.

The airline will eliminate more than 70 fleet service jobs and 18 ticketing and gate jobs at Pittsburgh International Airport, dealing yet another blow to a region that has suffered loss after loss at the hands of the carrier.

Gregory Bodrog, outgoing president of Lodge 1044 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said Tuesday that 65 full-time and 11 part-time fleet service workers will lose their jobs in March as part of the reductions.

However, Todd Lehmacher, a US Airways spokesman, said he was told that 73 fleet service workers would be furloughed here. Either way, the reductions will leave only a fraction of employees remaining in a fleet service workforce that once numbered more than a thousand.

Some of the workers losing their jobs have as much as 32 years of seniority with the airline, Mr. Bodrog said. The cutbacks will leave the union with about 80 employees to load and unload baggage and cargo and to clean and cater jets in Pittsburgh.

"It doesn't look like US Airways management wants to grow in Pittsburgh anymore," he said. "It looks like they want to dissolve it."

The 18 passenger service employees facing layoffs work at the ticket counters or the gate, Mr. Lehmacher said.

The Pittsburgh furloughs are part of a larger reduction that will affect 176 US Airways customer service and fleet service employees in 11 cities, including Boston, Buffalo, Los Angeles and Memphis, according to Robert Isom, the airline's chief operating officer.

In a letter to employees, he said the cutbacks were the result of reduced flying in some markets, overstaffing at some stations, and the discontinuance of mainline employees handling ramp functions for US Airways Express flights at two locations, including Pittsburgh.

The affected Pittsburgh employees now service US Airways mainline jets and those operated by commuter affiliates Republic Airlines and Chautauqua Airlines, Mr. Bodrog said.

US Airways workers who will still have jobs in Pittsburgh will service only US Airways mainline jets, he said. He added he's not aware of any flights being eliminated as a result of the layoffs.

Mr. Bodrog suspects the Republic and Chautauqua work will be subcontracted out to people making lower wages than the US Airways workers, who earn an average of $19 an hour. He said the union is powerless to do anything about the layoffs under the contracts negotiated during the last US Airways bankruptcy.

"We don't feel good about it," he said of the cuts. "Contractually, we can't do anything about it until August [when the contracts expire]."

US Airways, he said, has offered the employees facing possible furlough the opportunity to bid for jobs in other cities. In his letter, Mr. Isom said there are enough openings in other cities to accommodate all 176 affected employees.

Those who don't take transfers will be laid off. Full-time employees will receive 15 weeks of pay and health benefits, according to Mr. Bodrog. Part-time workers will receive 10 weeks of pay and health benefits.

The pending furloughs are the latest in a series of painful cutbacks in Pittsburgh by Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways. At one time the airline employed as many as 12,000 in the region and operated its largest hub from Pittsburgh International.

But that all changed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the airline's two bankruptcies. The airline now has 1,883 employees in the region. It dropped Pittsburgh as a hub in 2004. It has cut the number of daily nonstop flights from more than 500 to 45 as of November.


Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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