|Updated: 9/12/2012 10:07 am
||Published: 9/11/2012 11:16 am
American Airlines has announced when it will close its Ft. Worth maintenance base, and how many jobs that will be cut.
Officials say maintenance lines at Alliance Airport in Ft. Worth in November. Officials say more than 1,000 layoffs will begin in December.
The airline says it plans to outsource work to the Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport and the Tulsa International Airport maintenance bases.
The good news for Tulsa in the announcement is that far fewer workers will be laid off than originally thought. When the airline first filed for bankruptcy, it planned to lay off 2,600 workers in Tulsa. An agreement reached between American Airlines and the Transport Workers Union last month lowered that number to a maximum of 1,300 layoffs.
The airline's latest announcement lowered the number to 839 layoffs in Tulsa, 233 coming in November, and the other 606 in February, 2013.
But when all is said and done, those numbers could be significantly lower.
Employees ages 55 and older are eligible for early retirement or an early out option that allows them to take a modest severance pay. For every eligible employee who takes an early out, one fewer employee will be laid off.
There are plenty of workers willing to make the sacrifice.
"As of Friday morning, system-wide for the whole American Airlines system, TWU-American Airlines system, there had been a little over 600 people that had signed up so far," John Hewitt, Chairman of Maintenance for the TWU Local 514, said.
Most of those 600 people who have signed up for the early out are in Tulsa.
One of them is Elaine Gibson, a wheel and brake inspector at American Airlines for the past 26 years.
"I know what it's like being that age and having a family," she said. "My kids are grown. You know, we can cut corners and make it. But when you've got kids and the cost of living's going up, they need a chance."
At age 64, she's still a year away from full retirement benefits like Medicare, but is willing to take one for the team.
"It's not really a lot of money by the time taxes gets ahold of it," Gibson said. "But it's going to help. It will buy medical insurance."
Gibson said she imagines the relief for others in her American Airlines family.
"Maybe I'm going to make it now, it's ok," she said. "Someone cares. Someone is going to do this."
Even though plenty of workers like Gibson are making such a big sacrifice, union leaders like Hewitt continue to fight the airline to save as many jobs as possible.
"The union still believes those numbers should have been lower," Hewitt said. "And we have spoken to the company about that, and they are re-checking their numbers now."
Either way, Gibson is confident she's doing the right thing for her younger coworkers.
"You hope you're making the right decisions," she said. "But you just have to have faith in yourself and God and go on."
Those who are eligible for the early out option still have about two weeks left to sign up. The exact number of layoffs in Tulsa should be more clear by the end of September.