Controllers' strike squeezes airline jobs; 5,000 laid off
The air traffic controllers' strike is hurting workers who hold airline jobs, as well as labor support for the three-week-old walkout. About 5,000 airline employees have been laid off and the total is expected to double. Carriers are adjusting operations to lower levels, which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will recommend. Dalton James, an Eastern Airlines' spokesman, said an FAA decision on service levels while controller ranks are rebuilt will determine cutbacks. The rebuilding is expected to take a year or more if amnesty is nt granted to strikers and President Reagan remains adamant against those who broke their oaths against striking.
"It all depends on the FAA's decision on operating levels," Mr. James said, referring to flight schedules and future employment levels. So far carriers have operated at levels ranging upward to 80 percent after a larger initial reduction. The Air Transport Association reports that its 31 member airlines have lost an estimated $250 million, and income continues to be down by 20 percent or more.
It is not unusual for carriers to reduce work forces at the end of the summer travel season, but layoffs are already considerably heavier than normal seasonal reductions.
American Airlines announced on Aug. 14 that cutbacks in its service will force layoffs of 1,650 of its 36,000 employees, including 200 pilots and 600 flight attendants. Earlier Braniff reported that it was furloughing 1,500 of its 11,500 employees and US Air said that it had notified 700 of its 11,000 employees that they would be laid off by Sept. 1.
Trans World Airlines plans to furlough at least 200 employees on Sept. 3, and Delta has sent layoff notices to an undisclosed number. United and Continental are encouraging employees to take accumulated leaves or vacations at this time. Eastern is urging employees to take unpaid leaves of from one to six months, with assurances that their jobs will be waiting for them when they return.
Unions in the industry are concerned about the possibility that layoffs will spread further. Unions of flight attendants have met informally and are calling on the Reagan administration to resume bargaining. An official of an American Airlines' unit that faces 600 or more layoffs said in Texas, "Our main concern is to get the government to agree to resume bargaining, to get the controllers back to work, and to stop our furloughs."