A branch of one of the US’ most prominent flight attendant unions has called out aviation veteran David Neeleman’s latest start-up airline venture over its hiring policy.
Neeleman’s latest airline, Breeze, has reportedly teamed up with Utah Valley University in order to recruit a team of solely junior part-time flight attendants, ahead of the carrier’s upcoming launch later this year.
Under the program, Breeze flight attendants will be offered 15 shifts each month, for a set wage of US$1,200 per month.
They will also be offered a $6,000 in allowances towards an online course offering by the university, as well as shared housing arrangements, and one free return flight to their hometown per month.
The United branch of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) has likened the program to that of an “internship” rather than a career path, a sentiment not largely refuted by Neeleman himself.
The former JetBlue founder has been quoted saying that flight attendants “don’t improve much” with more years of experience behind them, hence why his new program will see temporary staff, who will only be able to work with the airline while they complete their online courses.
The AFA union not only believes the program to be exploitative – arguing that these students would take home just $80 per day of work, without any allowances for holidays, sick leave, health insurance, or retirement – but is also in violation of minimum wage wage requirements for the industry.
“To say it is insulting and an affront to our profession is a gross understatement,” the union said.
“In the clearest possible comparison: our most junior Members currently make $30.64 per hour (without incentives or Reserve override), and assuming the minimum daily flight assignment has a value of five hours, the daily rate of pay is $153.20 per day.”
AFA president Sara Nelson was quoted earlier stating that Breeze is “abusing” federal work-study subsidies in order to keep their labor costs as low as possible.
“We’re going to work hard to make sure this doesn’t get off the ground,” she said.
The union argues the program also has no pathway towards full-time work or job security for these young workers, making the work extremely insecure for these workers.
Further, the AFA argues that by targeting college-aged students in this program, and making the job entitlement dependent on course enrollment, is also in violation of discrimination laws.
“From a Union’s perspective, that’s age discrimination plain and simple,” the United AFA said in a statement.
“This concept must be viewed for what it is – a direct assault on our profession and careers.”
The union concluded by saying: “Corporations such as Amazon and Breeze Airlines must not be the future of working people. All of us have the right to work one job and earn enough in our career to take care of ourselves and our families; our Union ensures that.”