Thursday, January 13, 2011

Even the U.S. President can't freeze your pay when you have a good union contract

CAL fleet service workers

A lot of people don't understand why a good union contract is such a great thing to have.

Here's one terrific reason: If you have a pay raise in your contract, management can't freeze your pay unless they bargain with you first. 

Late last year, President Obama said he was freezing federal workers' pay. But even President Obama can't freeze federal union workers' salaries if their contracts include a pay raise. Reports the Washington Post,
...the freeze has already set in for federal employees, most of whom have had their pay put on ice for two years beginning Jan. 1. But not for some of Uncle Sam's workers, who are wrapped in the blanket of a union agreement. President Obama's pay freeze, which Congress approved last month, does not apply to raises negotiated through union contracts...
There are still a lot of government union workers affected by the pay freeze. That's because their contracts cover working conditions and not pay. But despite the president's freeze, a whole bunch of our brothers and sisters will get raises, including those at the National Treasury Employees Union, The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers and he American Federation of Government Employees.

Continental Airlines fleet service workers will soon learn the advantage of a contract when their first retroactive pay increases arrive next week. The CAL workers scored a huge triumph last year when they joined the Teamsters and negotiated their first contract (first contracts, by the way, aren't easy to get). The contract offers protections against unjust discipline, terminations, outsourcing and furloughs, as well as a 10.5 percent pay raise over 30 months. 

One minor drawback to contracts is that they are legal documents and can therefore be confusing.  The Teamsters offer some guidance about the Continental contract here or go to the bottom of the page here.