US aviation unions call on Congress for new $ 32 billion bailout

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CHICAGO / WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Six US unions representing aviation workers told top lawmakers Thursday that additional $ 32 billion in wage assistance is needed to keep hundreds of thousands of workers employed until March 31 , as the resurgence of coronavirus cases raises fears that air travel may not rebound this year.

FILE PHOTO: An airline pilot crosses Reagan National Airport during the coronavirus disease outbreak (COVID-19) in Washington, United States, April 5, 2020. REUTERS / Joshua Roberts

The request, presented in a letter to leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate, comes as Congress in July plans to consider a new spending cycle that could exceed $ 1 trillion to solve coronavirus problems and the impact on unemployed Americans.

Under CARES law passed earlier this year, Congress has given the aviation industry $ 32 billion to cover six months’ pay until September 30, in hopes of a sharp drop in air travel due to the coronavirus pandemic will subside by October.

But executives have since warned that a pick-up in travel in 2019 could still occur in two years, forcing employees to lay off workers in the fall without extending the Payroll Support Program (PSP).

“If October 1 were to arrive without extending the PSP fellowship program, mass layoffs are inevitable, as airline officials acknowledged,” union leaders said in the letter.

The letter was signed by the Air Line Pilots Association, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the Transport Workers Union, the Communications Workers of America and the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO.

Major US airlines are offering voluntary exit packages to reduce their workforce before October, and tens of thousands of employees are already taking temporary leave.

The main airline lobby, Airlines for America, which played a major role in negotiating the first stimulus package, said it was not currently seeking additional federal assistance.

Several airlines have decided to strengthen their balance sheets in the capital markets this week, with American Airlines raising $ 4.4 billion through stock and bond offers.

But senior airline executives are increasingly concerned about a potential second wave of COVID-19 after a recent increase in the number of cases and hospitalizations in a number of American states, an airline executive said. aerial to Reuters.

“Everyone holds their breath for a few weeks to see what’s going on,” he said.

For the first bailout, the industry argued that airlines play a crucial role in any economic recovery and require trained workers.

Representative Peter DeFazio, who chairs the House’s transport and infrastructure committee, told Reuters on Wednesday that “at the end of” the September 30 deadline, Congress may need to consider additional assistance for airlines , especially for the social remoteness of aircraft.

Her comment came after the Allied Pilots Association said it was discussing with lawmakers a plan for the government to pay airlines for empty seats in order to leave more space between passengers.

Report by Tracy Rucinski and David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler

Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.

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