Southwest agrees to pay raises for customer service agents

DALLAS (AP) — Southwest Airlines on Monday reached a tentative agreement with a union representing its customer service agents that would give…

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

The machinists’ union said its bargaining 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 applying for certain openings, leading the Dallas-based carrier to raise the starting salary for many airport jobs.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers has released a summary of the tentative contract. Workers would get immediate increases of 6.5% and annual increases of 3% over each of the next three years, which equates to a compound increase of 16.4%.

The union said the deal also strengthens mandatory overtime provisions.

Inflation and the continued recovery of air travel after the pandemic are giving airline workers more leverage to seek higher wages.

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

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