Airline unions seek billions to expand salary assistance

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Unions representing tens of thousands of airline workers on Thursday asked legislators for additional $ 32 billion in government assistance to keep their jobs until the end of March 2021, as demand for air travel remains weak due to the coronavirus pandemic.US passenger and cargo airlines, as well as airlines, received $ 32 billion in federal assistance to continue paying workers under the $ 2 trillion CARES law, which the Congress passed in March. The terms of the aid prohibit airlines from dismissing or reducing employee rates of pay until September 30 this year.

Unions on Thursday urged House and Senate leaders to adopt “a further extension” of the program, arguing that it would minimize additional demands or negotiations between the Treasury and the airlines.

“It is the simplest and quickest way to maintain the historic commitment of Congress to keep aviation workers on the payroll – many of whom are on the front lines of this deadly virus,” said one letter signed by unions representing flight attendants, pilots, mechanics and other employees, to leaders of Congress.

Spokespersons for the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

All major US passenger airlines have accepted federal support, but officials have warned that job cuts may be possible after terms of office expire this fall. A spokesperson for Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest and other major carriers, said it “is not currently seeking additional federal assistance.”

Airlines have posted their first losses in years as the virus, and measures to prevent it from spreading, have reduced demand to the lowest levels in more than five decades. Some executives do not expect demand to return to 2019 levels for more than a year.

Airlines have parked hundreds of planes, cut dozens of routes, and thousands of workers have offered unpaid or partially paid vacation time to save money.

Meanwhile, Congress is expected to begin negotiations on its next coronavirus rescue bill in July.

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