TWU/JetBlue IFC COVID-19 Update—March 19, 2020

This week, your Negotiating Team (NT) was scheduled to meet with JetBlue Management. Due to travel restrictions, in-person meetings were cancelled, and we attempted to meet remotely. While we were able to exchange a few proposals on the first day, your NT and Management mutually agreed to adjourn early to deal with the urgent matters surrounding COVID-19.

As we face the fast-changing landscape surrounding our industry during the COVID-19 crisis, our focus has become managing and mitigating the effects it is having on the lives and the jobs of our JetBlue IFCs. The Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) is doing everything possible to work with JetBlue Management to protect the health, safety, and security of our Members and to prevent furloughs.

On March 6, your TWU Health and Safety Team sent a letter to JetBlue’s President and Chief Operating Officer, Joanna Geraghty, requesting that JetBlue take immediate steps to provide important protections for JetBlue IFCs. While we have not yet received a response to the letter, JetBlue did change policy on the use of protective gloves during boarding and service.

Prior to the April bid, JetBlue notified the TWU that they would need to push back the bidding timeline to offer additional R&R and to accommodate a small reduction in flying as a result of a high cancellation rate due to COVID-19 concerns. JetBlue again reached out to the TWU on April 14 and informed us that, due to a much more substantial cutback in flying, they would need to do a rebid for April and, again, offer additional R&R. The TWU agreed to this rebid due to the escalating crisis and in an effort to honor the seniority of IFCs through the bidding process, as opposed to being subject to daily reschedules.

In addition, the TWU secured pay protection and protection from accruing attendance points for IFCs who are quarantined due to COVID-19 exposure or infection. Please review the “Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)” (MOU), and remember that if you are directed/mandated to self quarantine (or you test positive for COVID-19), you will need to provide documentation from a governmental agency or qualified medical personnel to be eligible for pay protection and to avoid accruing attendance points. Please review the MOU and reach out to us if you have any questions about the intent and/or requirements.

We received feedback from IFCs with comments, requests, and recommendations regarding both the MOU and other ways to respond to COVID-19. If you submitted a request and did not get a personal response, we apologize as we were seeking additional information from JetBlue. On March 17 the TWU requested a meeting with JetBlue Management to discuss your concerns. Although Management did not meet with us, we have received responses to the requests to address IFC concerns over COVID-19 issues. Some of those requests were also submitted in the March 6 letter to Geraghty and were included in the responses below:

  1. Temporarily eliminate Blue Turns from IFC duties
    “This is not under consideration. Our load factors are very low so at this time, it is not a high priority item and Crewmembers have been permitted to expand glove usage broadly.”
  2. Suspend or severely limit food and drink service on all flights*
    *Immediately preceeding the publication of this message, JetBlue announced temporary limitations to Inflight Service to combat the challenges of COVID-19. Please refer to today’s email from Inflight Communications detailing updated service standards that go into effect on Thursday, March 20.
  3. Ensure that hand sanitizer, medical grade gloves and disinfectant wipes are on all aircraft
    “We are doing what we can to secure these products and supplies. As has been publicized widely in the media, many of these supplies are not even available. The greatest difficulty we are having is securing wipes. As of now, they are unavailable because suppliers are diverting these products to hospitals and medical professionals. That said, we are continuing to attempt to source these products to ensure these supplies are on board our aircraft.”
  4. Expand insurance coverage for IFCs opting to bid for CrewFlex
    “This is not something under active consideration at this time. We already have IFCs who opted into the CrewFlex program knowing they would not receive benefits. We do not want to have one group out on CrewFlex receiving benefits and another group not receiving benefits.”
  5. Provide 50 hours of compensation for all IFCs opting for R&R as you provided to Pilots
    “Unfortunately, this is not possible as it would increase our costs. Doing this for pilots actually saves us money versus the option of having to furlough them. If we had to furlough pilots, there are displacement and training requirements that would force us to have to retrain some pilots into different aircraft and seats. This can be expensive and disruptive to the operation. We don’t have the same retraining requirements with IFCs and if we had to furlough it could be done quickly. As of today, we are trying to avoid furloughing any Crewmembers.”
  6. Allow IFCs to immediately drop down to zero hours using the trade board and maintain insurance coverage
    “This is not something we are considering at this time.”
  7. Announce that JetBlue will not contest claims for unemployment for those who bid for R&R
    “We are actively looking into our options. If asked by the unemployment board, we have to provide truthful statements, but we aren’t going to contest unemployment compensation.”
  8. Provide pay protection for IFCs who were previously awarded lines but lost them due to the rebid
    “The purpose of a rebid is to match our schedule with customer demand. If we had to pay everyone for what they held prior to the rebid, there wouldn’t be much reason to conduct a rebid.”
  9. Temporarily allow all IFCs to opt for Standard Pay instead of Premium Pay
    “We are launching a COVID-19 hardship pay model selection today.”

The TWU will continue to work with Management to address these and other COVID-19 issues as this situation continues to develop. If you have any specific COVID-19 questions or concerns you would like us to address, please submit them at the website. The entire front page of b6.twu.org is currently dedicated to providing the most updated information we have on COVID-19 to our JetBlue IFCs.

The TWU Legislative Department, in tandem with other unions and representatives within the transportation industry, is working with Congress and various state governments to secure additional relief for our Members and our industry. We will continue to keep you updated on these efforts and any action you can take to support these efforts.

Thank you for your continued support as we continue to address new challenges related to COVID-19 every day. Our number one priorities are protecting the health and jobs of our IFCs. The TWU is on the front lines fighting for you, and we will get through this together.