Southwest Airlines Mechanics Approve Contract, Ending Long Impasse

The union representing about 2,500 Southwest Airlines mechanics voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to ratify a new contract proposal, ending a labor impasse that lasted nearly seven years and wound up in court twice.

The five-year deal gives the mechanics $160 million in back pay to cover the period since the last contract ended in August 2012, increases salaries 20 percent immediately and includes 3 percent annual raises, according to the union, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association.

In a statement, the union said that the proposal was better than one it rejected in September, and that more than 90 percent of its members had voted to approve it. The union said its major concession was allowing Southwest to continue outsourcing some mechanics’ work to foreign contractors.

“Our focus now shifts to working together with Southwest Airlines, as we do the important work of restoring the safety culture Southwest Airlines has traditionally been known for,” the union’s statement said.

Southwest said in its own statement that the deal would take effect immediately and would benefit both the company and its workers.

“Our mechanics will receive well-deserved pay increases, and the company will realize additional flexibilities necessary to compete in today’s airline industry,” Russell McCrady, Southwest’s vice president of labor relations, said in the statement.

The agreement came about three months after Southwest sued the union, accusing it of an illegal work slowdown that forced the cancellation of 100 flights a day for weeks. The union said mechanics were grounding planes because of safety concerns. The Federal Aviation Administration warned both sides that the dispute could hurt the safety of the airline, which carries more passengers on domestic flights than any other airline. (Southwest also sued the mechanics in 2017, accusing them of illegally boycotting overtime work.)

Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst, said travelers would be happy to see the impasse broken.

“There is peace in the kingdom,” said Mr. Harteveldt, the founder of Atmosphere Research Group. “This is good news for Southwest and its travelers, especially as the airline heads into the extremely busy and extremely critical summer season.”

Mr. Harteveldt said Southwest investors could also have reason to applaud the agreement. American Airlines sued its mechanics on Monday, meaning some travelers might see Southwest as a more reliable option in cities where the two airlines compete.

“There may be a slight shift in market share and thus revenue in favor of Southwest,” he said.

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