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After layoff, American gives job help

American Airlines announced Monday it had formed programs to help thousands of recently laid off workers find new jobs, including a special job-hunting Web portal that will be operated by career site
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American Airlines announced Monday it had formed programs to help thousands of recently laid off workers find new jobs, including a special job-hunting Web portal that will be operated by career site

American has struggled to cut costs in recent months and slashed thousands of positions; for example, it laid off over 3,100 flight attendants at the beginning of the month — making a total of over 6,100 flight attendants who are out of work. Laid-off workers have been scouring for other work. It expects to trim some 7,000 jobs as it struggles to get its costs in line.

Laid-off airline workers have been able to use online and offline resources to search for work, but the deal with Monster will concentrate their résumés and work details in one place so employers who want to hire former American workers can easily search through possible candidates.

“Teaming with Monster allows us to help smooth their transition by giving our former colleagues broad exposure to companies looking for good people,” Sue Oliver, the airline’s senior vice president for human resources, said in a statement.

As they would with other online job searches, potential employers can register to use the special American site.

That desire by other companies to court former workers at American has already emerged, according to George Price, spokesman for American’s flight attendants union. He mentioned one company that offered to send 100 flight attendants back to school to become registered nurses. And American’s new efforts to help former workers was a big step on their part, he said.

“We’re starting to see some really good things finally coming about, and it’s about time,” said Price. “The company, I think, realizes now that they have an obligation to these people.”

The deal with Monster isn’t the only effort the airline, owned by AMR Corp., has made. It also announced a deal with human resources firm Adecco to open job centers in three markets hit hard by cutbacks.

The locations include Dallas, where American’s headquarters are located; St. Louis, the base for most of its employees who had been carried over when it bought out TWA; and Chicago, one of its major hubs. The deal with Adecco will allow workers to conduct job hunts, examine possible new professions and touch out on their interview skills. The Adecco centers will be set up at American facilities in each city. Financial terms of both deals were not disclosed.

American also signed a deal earlier this month with New Horizons computer centers to provide computer training to laid-off employees.

For many of the airline’s employees, the recent job cuts have been a stark reminder of their professional vulnerabilities. Many stayed in the same job for years or decades, and American’s efforts are designed in part to help them look at other possible careers. The support American has offered, Price notes, is a big step from previous rounds of layoffs, when some employees simply got a furlough notice.

The airline reported narrower losses of $75 million last quarter (versus a $720 million loss a year before) though that was helped in part by a $358 million payout by the federal government to the ailing domestic airlines. American has been struggling to cut costs and reduce flight capacity.

It said earlier this month it expected to cut traffic on some nonstop and less profitable routes, and recently announced major cuts to its St. Louis service — though they were less than some had expected.

The cuts at St. Louis were seen by many employees based there as a trimming out of many assets it acquired when it bought TWA in 2001. In addition to the flight attendants, only about 550 of some 2,300 TWA pilots remain with American.

Still, Price said, the moves to help its workers find new work is a major change in approach for the airline. He credits this, in part, to the airline’s new management.

The current CEO, Gerald Arpey, took over in April after former CEO Donald Carty stepped down when it was revealed he and other top executives had quietly implemented special pensions and bonuses even as the airline was bleeding cash.

Even if the job help is an olive branch to employees, Price still sees room for improvement in how American deals with its layoffs, such as counseling for those workers who have trouble adjusting after being let go: “What we would like to see is more emotional support.”