About 150 Japanese flight attendants at United Airlines Inc. based in Narita, near Tokyo, are at risk of losing their jobs by Oct. 1 when the U.S. carrier closes three of its international bases, their union has said.
While the company said those affected can move to bases in the United States if they have a right to work in the country, some 700 flight attendants at Narita, Hong Kong and Germany's Frankfurt do not have such a right, according to the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.
Some 350 flight attendants belong to the airline's Narita base and 180 of them are Japanese, Tony Wetterer, head of the union's council in the Japanese city, said. Only about 30 of whom have a U.S. work permit.
With global air traffic plunging due to the new coronavirus pandemic, United Airlines informed the employees in June that the three bases would close on Oct. 1 and they would be let go by that date if they cannot provide documentation for a U.S. work permit, according to the association.
The Washington-based union, which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 20 carriers, said earlier that it immediately went into negotiations with United Airlines, but the talks broke down when the management refused any solutions that did not involve companywide concessions.
United Airlines has the option to transfer those affected to London, its only remaining international base, but refused to do so, stating the base is overstaffed, Wetterer said in a statement in July, calling the company's actions "egregious."
He said the union believes the company is violating its collective bargaining agreement.
A spokesperson at the firm's Asia-Pacific regional office told Kyodo News it was disappointing that talks with the union failed amid the airline's efforts to stay afloat.
One of the affected flight attendants in Narita said staff can understand the airlines' cost-cutting efforts but want the company to help those who wish to stay with it to get U.S. work visas.
The flight attendants have been furloughed since April on their basic pay, according to Wetterer and other union members.
The association said in a statement earlier this month that more than 15,000 flight attendants will be out of work on Oct. 1 unless Congress acts to extend payroll support.