Después de 49 largos años, Southwest Airlines acaba de hacer un anuncio notable

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Southwest Airlines tomó una decisión difícil y trascendental esta semana que indica que nunca se ha tomado en 49 años.

Era fácil perderse con tantas otras cosas sucediendo en el mundo.

Pero pone a Southwest Airlines en camino de unirse a un club desafortunado: aerolíneas que colectivamente han recortado miles de empleos como resultado de la pandemia de coronavirus.

En este caso, es la primera vez que Southwest, que vuela con su nombre actual desde 1971, recurre a días de vacaciones o despidos.

Esta es una historia difícil de escribir. Siempre es difícil ver que alguien corre el riesgo de perder su trabajo.

Sin embargo, con el tiempo, esta experiencia también brinda enormes oportunidades de aprendizaje para casi cualquier persona que dirija un negocio de cualquier tipo o tamaño.

Aquí está el trasfondo. El mes pasado, el director ejecutivo de Southwest Airlines, Gary Kelly, grabó un mensaje de video para los empleados que describía el estado de la aerolínea y pedía a los sindicatos que redujeran los salarios en un 20 por ciento en 2021 para detener la hemorragia financiera.

Según los informes, Southwest apunta a perder millones todos los días durante el resto del año, y Kelly dijo que los trabajadores no sindicalizados ya están soportando recortes salariales temporales. Agregó que él personalmente no recibiría salario en 2021 y que otros ejecutivos también recortarían sus salarios en un 20 por ciento.

A cambio, prometió, los empleados no sindicalizados no verían despidos a lo largo de 2021 y sus salarios «regresarían» a las tasas previas a la pandemia para fin de año.

Por supuesto, cuando se trata de trabajadores sindicalizados, Southwest no puede recortar unilateralmente sus salarios.

Entonces Kelly dijo que estaba pidiendo esos recortes salariales a cambio de la misma promesa de no despidos en 2021, pero también advirtió que probablemente seguirían días de vacaciones si los sindicatos no estaban de acuerdo.

En ese momento, escribí que pensaba que este era un movimiento intrigante por parte de Kelly. Si los sindicatos lo aprueban, podría continuar con la racha de despidos de Southwest y establecer un precedente favorable. Si no estaban de acuerdo, posiblemente podría obligarlos a cargar con parte de la culpa por la pérdida de empleos.

Inmediatamente después, los sindicatos, que representaban tanto a los pilotos como a los asistentes de vuelo de Southwest Airlines, parecían tener agua fría con la idea de los recortes.

El sindicato de auxiliares de vuelo me dijo que sus miembros «no estaban interesados ​​en hacer concesiones en un contrato que había tardado décadas en conseguir», y el sindicato de pilotos dijo El periodico de Wall Street Si bien había dado su consentimiento para las conversaciones con Southwest, eso era «muy diferente de dar su consentimiento a las concesiones».

Si bien no tengo ninguna información privilegiada ni acceso al proceso de toma de decisiones, esto es lo que podría esperar, ya que ninguna de las partes de estas negociaciones tiene ningún incentivo para llegar a un acuerdo inmediato.

En otras palabras, podría ver esto y esperar que se llegue a un acuerdo de corte de último minuto, que bien podría tardar meses.

Todo esto hace que el movimiento más reciente de Southwest sea algo más fascinante.

Porque si bien Southwest emitió sus primeras advertencias de vacaciones esta semana, que son requeridas por ley antes de que se puedan tomar este tipo de acciones, esas notificaciones no se enviaron a los pilotos o asistentes de vuelo.

En cambio, fueron a un grupo mucho más pequeño: 42 especialistas en materiales, representados por International Brotherhood of Teamsters, que Southwest había anunciado que no negociaría.

No sé si esto es intencional o accidental, pero en negociaciones como esta, parece prudente gatear lo más lento posible, dar un pequeño paso a la vez, dejando al otro lado el mayor espacio posible para navegar más cerca del tuyo. Posición.

Si yo fuera un trabajador de Southwestern cuyo trabajo fuera lograr que los sindicatos se pusieran de acuerdo sobre los recortes, preferiría enviar los primeros mensajes de WARN a un pequeño grupo de trabajadores que dar un paso más grande antes de que quisiera. .

Y me hace pensar en otras preguntas que me haría a mí mismo si tuviera un negocio que requiera recortes para sobrevivir, y especialmente si no creo que tenga el capital de liderazgo (o el derecho legal) para dar explicaciones unilaterales. enviar.

¿Cómo puede moverse lenta, cuidadosa y metódicamente, manteniendo el control de las negociaciones tanto como sea posible, mientras le da a todos los demás espacio para guardar las apariencias y obtener la mayor cantidad de lo que necesitan?

Por supuesto, no sé dónde termina todo para el suroeste. Definitivamente espero que podamos regresar más rápido de lo que esperábamos y que la necesidad de reducir el personal sea mínima. Me encantaría poder escribir en unos meses que Southwest ha logrado mantener su racha de 49 años sin vacaciones.

Pero miraré. Y si tienes un negocio, míralo también.

Las opiniones expresadas por los columnistas de Inc.com aquí son las suyas, no las de Inc.com.

However, as it unfolds, this experience also contains tremendous learning opportunities for almost anyone running a business of any kind or size. 

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Here's the background. Last month, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly recorded a video message for employees, describing the state of the airline, and asking unions to agree to take 20 percent pay cuts during 2021 to help stop the financial bleeding.

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Southwest projects to lose millions a day for the rest of the year, according to reports, and Kelly said non-union employees were already taking the temporary pay cuts. He also added that he personally would take no salary during 2021, and that other senior executives will see their salaries drop by 20 percent, too. 

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In return, he promised, non-union employees would see no layoffs throughout 2021, and their salaries would "snap back" at the end of the year to pre-pandemic rates.

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As for union employees, of course Southwest can't cut their salaries unilaterally. 

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So, Kelly said he was asking for these pay cuts in exchange for the same promise of no layoffs during 2021, but also warning that if unions wouldn't agree, furloughs would likely follow.

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At the time, I wrote that I thought this was an intriguing move on Kelly's part. If the unions agreed, he could continue Southwest's no-layoff streak and establish an advantageous precedent. If they didn't agree, he might be able to force them to shoulder some of the blame for job losses. 

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Immediately afterward, the unions representing both Southwest Airlines pilots and flight attendants seemed to pour cold water on the idea of cuts.

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The flight attendants' union told me its members were "not interested in making concessions to a contract that took decades to obtain," and the pilots' union told The Wall Street Journal that while it had agreed to discussions with Southwest, that was "very different than agreeing to concessions."

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But while I don't have any inside information or access to the decision-making processes, it's what you might expect, in that neither side in this negotiation has incentive to agree to anything immediately.

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In other words, I might look at this and expect that if any agreement on cuts were to be reached, it would happen at the last possible minute -- which might well be months away.

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All of which makes the latest move by Southwest just a bit more intriguing. 

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Because while Southwest issued its first furlough warnings this week, which are legally required before it can take this kind of action, those notices didn't go to the pilots or flight attendants.

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Instead, they went to a much smaller group: 42 material specialists represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which Southwest said had announced they would not negotiate.

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I don't know if this is by design or happenstance, but in any negotiation like this, it seems smart to creep as slowly as possible -- taking one small step at a time, and allowing the other side as much room as possible to navigate closer to your position.

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If I were a Southwest labor executive whose job was to try to get unions to agree to cuts, I would much prefer to send the first WARN notices to a small group of workers, rather than be boxed into take a bigger step before I wanted to.

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And it makes me think of other questions I'd ask myself, if I were running a business that required cuts to survive--and especially if I didn't think I had the leadership capital (or legal right) to make unilateral pronouncements.

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How can you move slowly, carefully, methodically--staying in control of negotiations to the maximum possible extent--while still giving everyone else room to save face and get as much of what they need as possible? 

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I don't know where this all lands for Southwest, of course. I certainly hope we'll see a faster comeback than we might have anticipated, and that the need for job cuts will be minimal. I'd love to be able to write in a few months that Southwest managed to keep its 49-year, no-furlough streak going.

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But I'll be watching. And if you're running a business, I think you should watch, too.

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