News & Commentary

September 14, 2014

The Metropolitan Opera has announced that it is eliminating 22 of its 254 administrative positions (9% of its nonunion staff) mostly through layoffs.  The Met has been struggling financially, resulting in recent tensions with unions representing Met employees.  However, with wage cuts and budget reorganization, “labor savings and cost reductions are expected to save the Met some $90 million over the next four years,” says the New York Times.

Dave Jamieson at the Huffington Post believes that Obamacare could be a “huge boon to alt-labor groups” like Working America, the AFL-CIO’s non-union affiliate that hopes to bring non-union workers into the labor movement.  Alt-labor groups like Working America have struggled to become financially self-sustaining outside the framework of collective bargaining.  However, Jameison thinks that Working America’s new deal with a private insurance exchange to guide its members and would-be members into health plans will be the “most promising funding lead” for the alt-labor group.

More than half of Boeing’s machinists at its St. Louis fighter-jet plant have signed up to take voluntary buyouts, reports the Wall Street Journal.  “The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said 1,317 of its 2,300 members at the factory had registered with the company by a July 31 deadline to take the voluntary buyout offer, which was part of a contract extension deal reached in February.”  Boeing has had financial and union difficulties over recent years, and earlier this year it secured “deep concessions” from 32,000 machinists in the Pacific Northwest in January after “bitter negotiations deeply divided the workforce.”

The New York Times reports that Air France-KLM warned on Saturday that it was preparing to cancel around 60 percent of its scheduled flights on Monday because of a dispute with pilots.  “Frédéric Gagey, chief executive of the company’s Air France unit, said negotiations with union leaders would continue through the weekend in the hope of reaching an agreement with pilots, who are seeking to ensure that the 250 new pilots the group aims to hire for its budget carrier over the next five years will be employed under the same contract as those flying under the main Air France brand.”  The company estimates that 60 percent of Air France’s more than 3,800 pilots would strike on Monday, making extensive flight cancellations inevitable.  The strike comes on the heels of Thursday’s announcement that Air France-KLM will double the size of its unprofitable low-cost unit, Transavia, by 2017.  The announcement angered Air France pilots, “who oppose moving a number of popular leisure routes to Transavia, where crew members are paid less.”

In international commentary, the New York Times writes that one of the biggest upcoming projects for the next European Commission, which takes office in November, will be to create a “capital markets union.”  Author Hugo Dixon writes that “the prime goal of a capital markets union should be to develop healthy sources of nonbank finance that can foster jobs and growth. The European Union suffers from clogged up and fragmented capital markets, which are a fraction of the size of their American equivalents.”  The author believes that the new European Commission should closely examine the effects of various EU regulations on capital markets and work to relax rules that limit the availability of credit and capital.

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