Are layoffs coming for Tulsa's largest employer?

Tuesday, September 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A Dallas newspaper quotes an anonymous executive with American Airlines saying significant job cuts will be announced later this week. News on Six reporter Lori Fullbright talked with some local folks about what that would mean and says rumors and speculation abound.

Hard facts are a little harder to come by. As one union official told KOTV Monday, everybody's nervous and they're looking for answers. The uncertainty makes an already tense situation even harder to bear.

Tulsa’s largest employer, American Airlines, is experiencing economic fall-out from last week's attack, like all the airlines, but while others have announced massive lay-offs and seen stocks drop, American has issued no official word about what the future holds, but if it involves Tulsa lay-offs, local unions are ready to support their members. Dennis Burchette, Transport Workers Local 514 President: "Our collective bargaining agreement allows our members to fill any vacancies first and after that, the junior person in the system, which may not be in Tulsa, would be the first caught up in a reduction of workforce.”

Depending on what, if any relief Congress gives the airlines industry, the short-term outlook could be bleak for many carriers, but, economic experts say it's also important to look at the long-term. David Healey, Business Editor: "If this is temporary, then in the long run, some of the airlines may go under, but, the strongest ones, like American Airlines, may actually need more workers to handle the work they'll be picking up from other carriers." Healey says Tulsa's unemployment rate is fairly low, so that any laid off workers might have pretty good luck finding other jobs.

Trouble is, nobody knows what's going to happen, but, for now, it doesn't feel good. Dennis Burchette: "Our turn times, the time an airplane is on the ground, has been extended, and if that continues, they can't maintain the level of operation they have in our industry. Everybody's nervous.” Nervous, not just about the job outlook and the economy, but also about life in general and how it's changing.

But, despite the current troubles, the airline industry is here to stay and as long as planes fly, the companies will need employees. The only question up in the air right now, is how many.