Tentative deal would boost pay for 8,000 Southwest workers

DALLAS (AP) — More than 8,000 customer-service workers at Southwest Airlines would get raises of 16% to 25% over four years under a tentative contract, a sign of cost pressures facing airlines in a tight labor market.

The agreement announced Monday faces a ratification vote, however, and the same workers rejected a previous deal that union leaders negotiated in May.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said the new deal has better terms than the rejected agreement and would put people who work at Southwest ticket counters and airport gates at the top of the industry’s pay scale.

Under the agreement, a top-scale customer-service representative would get a 13.1% raise upon ratification and 25.1% over four years. The rejected deal would have given them a 17.5% raise over that period. The union said less-senior workers would receive slightly smaller raises but more than under the May proposal.

The union said the deal also includes bonuses – a minimum $1,000, running into several thousand dollars for the most-senior workers –stronger protections when employees are ordered to work overtime, and improvements if similar workers at other airlines get better deals.

Southwest’s vice president of labor relations, Adam Carlisle, said the deal would reward employees while keeping the airline competitive.

Airlines are under intense pressure to raise pay as air travel rebounds from the pandemic. The industry has lost tens of thousands of workers since the pandemic struck, many of whom took early retirement. Pilots at smaller regional airports have recently won large pay increases, and other workers have been in short supply. Southwest CEO Robert Jordan said last year that the airline was getting fewer applicants per job than it did before the pandemic.

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