Justin officials express concern over layoffs

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Closure of facility at Alliance Airport could harm local economy

JUSTIN — Some local residents lost their jobs at the American Airlines maintenance base at Fort Worth Alliance Airport last week, and company officials say more layoffs will follow until the company moves out in March.

City officials say the layoffs will have a negative effect on the local economy because many of the estimated 1,700 American Airlines employees who worked at Alliance are relocating to other parts of the state and country.

Justin resident Gary Moffitt, 57, says he’s one of the fortunate employees who was not laid off, but instead relocated to another facility. The maintenance control technician moved to a facility just south of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, turning his three-mile drive into a 30-mile commute.

“Compared to people who are forced to move across the country and people who are being put out of work a week to two weeks before the holidays, it’s not really a significant sacrifice,” he said.

Company officials said the company began layoffs last week and 252 employees at Alliance will be laid off by spring.

On Nov. 29, 2011, American Airlines’ parent company, Fort Worth-based AMR Corp., announced it had filed for bankruptcy.

According to AMR press releases, officials said bankruptcy allowed the company to restructure its debt, costs and other financial obligations.

On Feb. 1, employees nationwide received news regarding the company’s plans to report profit losses, and in a letter to employees, AMR President Tom Horton announced the company would make deep cuts to its labor force.

“Morale was terrible. Morale has been terrible for a long time,” Moffitt said. “People don’t respond well when they know their benefits or position will be cut.”

In the spring, officials announced that layoffs, reduced benefits and other changes would be made in an attempt to save the company about $1 billion annually.

“While we are now firmly on a path to a successful growing future, we must acknowledge the near-term pain these changes will require,” Horton wrote in a letter to employees this year. “That’s especially true because we will end this journey with many fewer people.”

Several American Airlines employees faced almost 12 months of not knowing whether or not they would have a job by the end of the year, Moffitt said.

A week before Thanksgiving, employees at Alliance were told who would be laid off and who had options to relocate.

“A week before Thanksgiving, we were told who was getting cut, and two weeks before Christmas they were laid off,” Moffitt said. “It isn’t fair, and it isn’t an easy time to work here.”

Before the layoffs, relocations and buyouts, about 1,700 American Airlines employees worked at Alliance.

Justin Mayor Greg Scott said the layoffs likely will have a negative impact on the economy of Denton County. Residents from all over the county work at the airport, he said.

“It’s not easy to deal with an economy that forces companies to make tough decisions, but these are the cards we’re dealt,” he said.

The estimated 1,700 workers who used to live and eat lunch in nearby towns and cities will no longer spend their money locally, Scott said.

“We’re losing residents, jobs and people who spend their money here in the city. There will be repercussions, and we’ll probably see them in the coming months,” he said.

Bill Collins, American’s vice president of base maintenance, said the furloughs and layoffs were an unfortunate part of the company’s restructuring process and that the decision was not made easily.

“Although it will be a few months before we will complete all work at Alliance, the vast majority of work there is now complete,” he said. “We are all quite sad to be bringing it to a close.”

About 73 percent of the Alliance employees affected by the reductions took other positions within the company.

American will eliminate about 10,000 positions throughout the company, laying off about 3,000 employees. The remaining cuts will come from the company eliminating positions that open through attrition and employees opting to take an early retirement.

A spokesman for the company said American is in the process of strengthening the company, which includes working on a merger deal with US Airways.

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is jharden@dentonrc.com .

 


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