Dear AFA: April 22, 2014

Choose a different Dear AFA: (search archives)

Reported by Jennifer Ritter

  • Healthcare Information for Involuntary Furlough
  • Union Victory at Boeing
  • British Airways Announces Innovative Fuel Production Process

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen and welcome to Dear AFA.  We are a democratic, Member driven Union of Flight Attendants for Flight Attendants.  Today is Tuesday, April 22, 2014 and this is Jennifer Ritter, reporting. I am a Member of Boston Council 27, and I stand with, and will help protect all of my 685 Sisters and Brothers.

Health Care Information for Involuntary Furlough
We’ve received reports from some Flight Attendants subject to Involuntary Furlough, that they have been advised that their insurance coverage has been cancelled when they attempted to access medical service.

Active coverage terminates at the end of the month based on the last day worked or of active status.  For the Flight Attendants placed on Involuntary Furlough status on 4/1/14, the last day of active service was 3/31/14.   Active Coverage Ended on that Date.  

Because this was the last day of the month, for administrative purposes only, this creates a gap until the COBRA election process occurs.  

The first ninety (90) days of COBRA coverage is supplemented by the company.  Flight Attendants must elect the COBRA coverage in order to receive the first 90 days at the active employee rate, and must make their COBRA elections known to the Benefits Service Center as well as a payment, in order for the COBRA status to be sent to the insurance carrier.  COBRA is paid at the beginning of the month for which coverage is desired.

The Involuntary Furlough publication indicates the COBRA paperwork will be sent within 45 days of the effective date of the Involuntary Furlough.  For those individuals who have not received paperwork yet, they should call the Benefits Service Center at 800-651-1007 to make your elections, and arrange payment information. By doing this, the Benefits Service Center can send a manual update to the insurance provider to expedite the process of implementing COBRA coverage. We encourage those Flight Attendants who have been placed on Involuntary Furlough status to call the Benefits Center to get the process started as soon as possible.  Members should not wait until they receive the COBRA packet if they need medical coverage now.

It is important to understand that any claims incurred prior to implementing COBRA coverage can be resubmitted for reimbursement/payment and will be processed once the coverage is in place. If COBRA is elected, coverage will be retroactive to April 1, 2014 for those claims.

Beyond the first three months, to continue COBRA coverage for the remaining 15 months, Flight Attendants are required to pay the full cost of the coverage plus a 2% administrative fee.

All of this is an administrative issue.  If these Members have an emergency, in every instance, they should not wait to get necessary medical treatment. 

Union Victory At Boeing
A grievance filed thirteen (13) years ago by the engineers and technical workers represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees In Aerospace (SPEEA) against Boeing has been settled. 

An arbitrator ruled against Boeing in January and lump sum payments must now be made to 251 current and 233 former employees, or their heirs.  The astonishing forty-seven million ($47M) dollar award includes back pay, premium pay, interest, pension and 401(k) contributions.  The average pay out per employee is one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000), with some receiving as much as four hundred thousand dollars ($400,000).

A spokesperson for the Union said, “Boeing spent more than a decade and countless dollars trying to break it's Contracts with these employees.  It’s disappointing it took so long, but the employees prevailed.”  Meanwhile, Boeing said, “Boeing was disappointed with the arbitration ruling but we are working with SPEEA to fulfill the arbitrator’s make-whole ruling.”  The dispute was predicated on Boeing’s erroneous contention that the affected employees were not covered by the SPEEA Collective Bargaining Agreement.

This lucrative victory demonstrates what can be achieved through Solidarity.  Although the process was a lengthy one, the Union was able to capitalize on the Solidarity of its Members to bring about a settlement of which everyone can be proud.  This is the hallmark of collaborative organized labor.  When we stand solidly behind our Union, we achieve our collective goals while advancing our profession. 

British Airways Announces Innovative Fuel Production Process
British Airways CEO Willie Walsh chose today, which by no coincidence is Earth Day, to reveal their commitment to building the world’s first facility to convert landfill waste into jet fuel.  Approximately 575,000 tons of waste that would otherwise be bound for landfills will instead be converted into an estimated120,000 tons of clean liquid fuels.  From a carbon footprint perspective, this will equate to taking 150,000 cars off the road.

This action comes as the entire aviation industry seeks ways to reduce its environmental footprint while reducing its fuel expense.  At United, we are finally in the process of phasing out 1970’s era foam cups in favor of recyclable cups.  United has also begun recycling “cold” cups in US markets.  At the same time, management is continuing to explore and develop the use of bio-fuels as an alternative for conventional, petroleum-based jet fuel.

That’s all for tonight and thank you for calling.  Through strength and solidarity, we will continue building our collective future.  After all, it’s our future.

top of page