Southwest agrees to pay raises for customer-service agents

DALLAS (AP) — Southwest Airlines reached a tentative agreement Monday with a union representing its customer-service agents that would give pay raises totaling more than 16% over the next three years to about 7,000 employees.

The machinists’ union said its negotiating committee unanimously recommended that members approve the contract in an upcoming ratification vote.

The contract is the latest sign of inflationary pressure on airlines, which are also facing higher fuel costs. During the pandemic, Southwest has seen fewer people apply for some openings, leading the Dallas-based carrier to raise starting pay for many airport-based jobs.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers posted a summary of the tentative contract. Workers would get immediate raises of 6.5% and 3% annual raises in each of the next three years, which works out to a compounded increase of 16.4%.

The union said the deal also strengthens provisions on mandatory overtime.

Inflation and the continuing recovery of air travel from the pandemic give airline workers more leverage to seek higher pay.

This month, flight attendants at American Airlines affiliate Piedmont Air approved a contract with “substantial” pay raises and a bonus. Two weeks ago, aircraft mechanics and cabin cleaners at Horizon Air, an affiliate of Alaska Airlines, voted 93% to reject a proposed new contract because the raises were too small, according to their union.

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