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Southwest Airlines Co. asked a federal court to order its mechanics and their union to stop reporting excessive maintenance issues that are grounding an unusually large number of aircraft and threatening “irreparable injury” to the carrier.
Leaders of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association have taken part in a “system-wide campaign” designed to increase leverage during contract talks, Southwest said in a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Dallas. The union has falsely claimed that mechanics’ actions reflect only an increased focus on safety, the company said.
Southwest, which has been in contract talks with the union representing its 2,700 mechanics for more than six years, has failed to reach a deal as it seeks to keep costs in check. Union members rejected a tentative agreement in September.
“The concerted effort has and will continue to result in delayed or canceled flights,” Southwest said. “Any delay or cancellation of flights has and will continue to inconvenience thousands of passengers and adversely affect the national transportation system.”
The union didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The alleged job action began Feb. 12, shortly after the last time the two sides met in contract talks, the company said in the suit. The following day, the number of aircraft pulled from flights for maintenance issues rose to 35 from 30, and eventually hit a high of 62 on Feb. 19, the suit said.
In one example cited in the lawsuit, planes in Houston wracked up a combined total of 127 hours out of service in one day because of maintenance issues, up from the average of 18.6 hours. Southwest has previously said mechanics have kept planes out of service because of items such as broken tray tables.
Southwest told the union Feb. 22 that its investigation determined the effort was orchestrated by a group of about 100 mechanics in four cities, and called on AMFA to act immediately to stop the job action.
The Dallas-based airline accused the union of violating the Railway Labor Act that governs airline and union relations by not maintaining current operations, work rules and standards during contract negotiations.
The case is Southwest Airlines Co. vs Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, 3:19-cv-00514-G. U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).
–With assistance from Tom Korosec.
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.