Immediately after the December 31, 2016, payroll period AFA heard from Flight Attendants with a slew of payroll problems. These ranged from underpayment, not receiving a check, overpayment, and repayment issues. As a consequence AFA set up a meeting with Inflight and Payroll on January 11 to sift through these different issues, try to understand what happened, and get resolutions. While we do not have definitive solutions at this stage, we can pass along the following information and advice, which may help Flight Attendants in the interim.
Virtually all the payroll problems are related to our ability to drop to low hours, defined as below 50 hours, which was the previous drop floor before LOA 6. We now have hundreds of Flight Attendants regularly dropping below 50 hours, and many of those below 37.5 hours. This reality was not contemplated by our Contract’s payroll language (Section 18.J.2.) nor by the Company’s payroll system.
As a result, the Company has continued the practice of paying Flight Attendants 37.5 hours on each paycheck (16th and 1st) regardless of their actual hours for the month. This has placed a number of Flight Attendants in “overpayment” status, because each month they continued to be paid more than they fly.
Starting with the December 31st paycheck the Company stopped paying Flight Attendants 37.5 hours if they had less than 37.5 hours for the month (they were already paid 37.5 hours on the 16th). As a result, those Flight Attendants did not receive a paycheck on the 31st nor did they receive a paystub. The Company did this to stop overpaying Flight Attendants.
While AFA does not agree with how the Company implemented its “fix” on December 31st, your MEC recognizes that we have real payroll issues which Section 18.J.2. of our Contract does not address. AFA’s long-term goal is have the Company pay Flight Attendants only for what they fly each month. In the meantime, Flight Attendants should understand how the Company is going to administer payroll, and, therefore, how they can try to avoid or mitigate payroll issues:
1. Flight Attendants will not receive a paycheck on the 1st of the month if they do not have more than 37.5 hours for the month.
For the time being the Company is going to continue to pay Flight Attendants 37.5 hours on the 16th paycheck REGARDLESS of how many hours are on their line, based upon a full active month. Therefore, if you have only 35 hours on your line for the month, and you are paid 37.5 hours on the 16th you are not due any money on the 1st and will not receive a paycheck (in fact, you now owe money). We understand that not receiving a paycheck each pay period is a real problem for Flight Attendants, because you have no record of accruals or what you might owe or be due to the Company. This is one of the issues we are trying to get fixed.
2. If you have less than 37.5 hours for the month you are going to owe for overpayments.
As follows from #1, if you have less than 37.5 hours for the month you will always be overpaid. In this case you will eventually be placed into a repayment status (after 3 paychecks). Again, AFA does not like the fact that the Company is continually overpaying Flight Attendants with low hours. This also requires a fix. Nevertheless, please be aware that if you fly low hours Payroll will eventually send you an email with an overpayment amount and repayment options.
3. The “best” way to repay overpayments is through payroll deduction.
Flight Attendants should be aware that Section 18.J.6. of our Contract permits the Company to take back overpayments. The “default” procedure under the Contract is for the deduction of 10% of net earnings from each paycheck until the overpayment is satisfied. Payroll will send an email offering the 10% deduction as an option, as well as other payment options. Flight Attendants are only obligated to the 10% option. However, Flight Attendants are free to choose other options if they wish. But, please be aware that if you choose an option other than payroll deduction (such as cutting the Company a check for the overpayment) you may be overpaying in taxes. Weigh carefully your options before you make a choice. Please also be aware that if you fail to choose an option the Company will default to 10% deductions.
4. Flight Attendants with more than 37.5 hours can avoid payroll issues.
If you absolutely need to avoid overpayments and need to receive a paycheck each pay period (if only for a few dollars), the best strategy is to assure you have more than 37.5 hours each month. This may mean a very small check on the 1st, but at least you will receive a check and paystub with a record of your accruals.
However, for Flight Attendants that need to pay health insurance each paycheck you may have to fly well in excess of 37.5 hours to cover the premium contribution for each paycheck (16th and 1st). Of course, eligibility for health insurance is not tied to the hours your fly. But, failure to fly enough hours to cover payroll deductions will mean that you will have to find alternative means to pay your health insurance premium contributions.
AFA understands that many Flight Attendants were broadsided by December’s payroll problems. AFA was caught off-guard, as well. Nevertheless, the payroll issues we are experiencing are a result of the new privilege to drop to low hours. Low paychecks and no paychecks are inevitable. Until we can get a fix for the unfortunate payroll side effects of low hours Flight Attendant should only drop their lines to a level that allows them to manage the consequences.
Your MEC’s goal is to have an update and some fixes for low hours payroll issues in March.