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United cuts customer service, other workers
By Anna Marie Kukec | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/7/2010 12:01 AM

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About 260 United Airline workers, including 50 customer service representatives at O'Hare International Airport, will be laid off effective Friday, just as a major snowstorm is expected to pummel the Midwest.

About 100 more workers, including customer service reps and ramp workers, will have their hours cut, the company said.

Rich Delany, district president for the International Association of Machinists, the union that represents these workers, was unavailable for comment.

The Chicago-based airline said the actions were the result of overall reduction in capacity.

"This is a difficult, but necessary decision to ensure we have the right number of people in our operation," United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said Wednesday. "We are confident that we have adequate resources to serve our customers."

McCarthy said the workers were notified of the action in early December.

Instead of dealing with customer service via phone, United travelers were encouraged in a statement issued Wednesday to check schedules and rebook flights at United.com, since the snowstorm is expected to hit Thursday and Friday.

To complicate matters further, United flight attendants, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants CWA, AFL-CIO, will hold a worldwide protest Thursday to reflect their anger over not achieving a new contract by Jan. 7. The group said negotiations started last April and a new contract was intended to be in place by Thursday.

While the protests will be staged at different times and locations, the one at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport will be at 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at United departure Door 1G.

In addition, United's Capt. Wendy Morse, who began her term on Jan. 1 as chairman of the United Master Executive Council of the Air Line Pilots Association, will be talking with reporters on Thursday to discuss their negotiations with United management.