|Updated: 2/03/2012 4:29 pm
||Published: 2/02/2012 5:35 pm
The fallout continued Thursday from American Airlines' plan to make deep job cuts at the Tulsa maintenance base as part of its bankruptcy restructuring plan.
Wednesday, the company said as many as 2,100 Tulsa workers could be laid off. But when non-union jobs are added to the mix, the total is closer to 2,800 job cuts.
As previously reported, American is also proposing to outsource some of its maintenance work to cut labor costs. But Thursday, union workers said outsourcing would be foolish, and that the maintenance base can not only work more cost-effectively and efficiently, but could actually bring more money in for American Airlines.
The union says as it increases efficiency, it could handle doing maintenance work for other companies.
But union members also say there's another risk to outsourcing their work to cheaper workers: you get what you pay for.
Maintenance workers in Tulsa say their training and experience gives them a safer mentality and approach to their work.
"You know, we all take a great deal of pride in the work that we do," Chris Rhinehart said.
After 23 years as a machinist for American, getting more training every year, Rhinehart says he may get paid more than an outside contractor, but he'll do better work.
"In order to maintain that pay and that good living, I feel that I am very responsible for the work that I do," he said. "And I'm going to do the very best to make sure that when I sign off my work it's 100 percent complete, it's reliable, it's ready for assembly on that aircraft."
Whether the outsourced work goes overseas or to a cheaper company in the U.S., Rhinehart says in most cases those other workers are going to be earning minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour. the average maintenance worker at the Tulsa base makes about $24 an hour.
"At minimum wage rates and stuff, I don't think they would have that same passion."
And he says it's highly unlikely they would be anywhere close to as qualified.
"That would worry me just because, I mean, 50,000 feet in the air, and if something goes wrong I need skilled workers," Tulsa resident LaTora Wren said.
"I feel like if I was the pilot driving, I think people would want me to know what I'm doing," Wren said.
Rhinehart says he would definitely think twice about putting his family on a plane maintained by bargain contractors.
"They're really taking a huge risk."
American Airlines is still in the early stages of the bankruptcy restructuring process, so it's unclear how much work would be outsourced and whether it would go overseas or to a company in the U.S. that uses cheaper, less-skilled workers.
According to TWU Local 514 union leaders, American Airlines is the only major airline left that isn't already outsourcing its maintenance work.