A new CWA report drawing from a nationwide survey of 800 CWA-represented passenger service agents at American Airlines subsidiary Envoy Air reveals dangerous conditions affecting agents at the airline that should raise red flags for the flying public. Envoy agents reported serious safety hazards on the job due to unreasonable time pressures, high turnover and chronic understaffing, low wages and long hours, and a management culture that forces workers to cut corners to maintain an on-time schedule and avoid discipline and puts them at risk of injury.
"Pressure for on-time departures is so immense that being a nervous wreck and questioning safety is a constant, daily thing," said an agent at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport in Texas.
The report also shows how Envoy and American Airlines' approach to safety is resulting in many preventable injuries. In November, an Envoy employee in Miami suffered a fatal heart attack in the employee break room. Excessive overtime can increase the risk of heart attacks, with one study showing the risk was increased for those working more than 11 hours per day or more than 60 hours per week in the month before the attack. The week before his death, the employee had clocked in 66 hours over just six days.
"My station is understaffed to a point of insanity," said an agent at Dane County Regional Airport in Wisconsin. "We are overworked and over-exhausted, which makes for a very dangerous combination."
CWA is making recommendations for Envoy Air to address these safety concerns including ensuring adequate staffing so agents can get the job done safely and on time; allowing workers to report unsafe conditions with no fear of retaliation; ensuring timely repair of defective equipment and availability of protective gear; providing adequate training to all agents; and paying a living wage that would enable agents to work reasonable hours and help lower employee turnover.
Workers at Envoy have been trying to negotiate a contract with fair, family-sustaining wages and improved safety standards for more than two years. The next bargaining session is set for January 22.