Nearly a month after passenger service workers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) walked off their jobs during a one-day strike, tentative contract agreements were reached with four of the contractors employing about 1,900 airport workers.

The agreements, brokered by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s office September 25th, were reached between the Service Employees International Union Local 1877 and the passenger service contractors Air Serv, G2 Secure Staff, Aero Port Services and Aviation Safeguards. Agreements are yet to be negotiated with five other contractors — ABM/One Source, Flagship, Lee’s Maintenance and World Services — which employ about 500 LAX service workers, primarily janitors and cabin cleaners.

The union, which represents approximately 2,500 workers such as skycaps, baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants and security guards, authorized the strike to call for increased pay and health benefits. The workers claim that their employers, who are contracted by airlines operating at the airport, are providing inadequate training, leading to high turnover rates and safety issues.

Villaraigosa helped prevent the labor action continuing through the busy Labor Day holiday weekend by brokering a three-week “cooling-off period” between the union and nine contractors. The agreement allowed the striking workers to return to work without fear of retaliation.

The mayor was also instrumental in brokering the contract agreements with some of the employers that covered salary increases, new equipment and improved training standards.

“In these difficult economic times for airline contractors and for hard-working Angelenos, I am pleased that we have avoided a costly strike by bringing the union and passenger service contractors together to reach a deal,” Villaraigosa said in a statement.

Airport Workers United spokesman Mike Chavez noted that the workers were pleased to learn that they will see higher wages and improved job standards, but said they were disappointed that the contracts do not include healthcare benefits.

“We feel good about coming to this agreement and there’s some real progress on wages and standards for training and equipment,” Chavez said. “But healthcare is also important.”

Union members believe that a main reason health benefits were not part of the agreements is that the airlines did not take part in the process, Chavez said.

Representatives of the passenger service contractors G2 Secure Staff and Aero Port Services did had not returned phone calls from seeking comment on the agreements at Argonaut press time.

Although tentative contracts are still to be negotiated with the five janitorial service contractors, Chavez said the union is “optimistic” that agreements will soon be reached.

Villaraigosa also encouraged the remaining contractors to continue pursuing a deal with the Service Employees International Union to allow for better safety standards at LAX.

“Now I am urging the union and janitorial and cabin-cleaner contractors to follow their lead and return to the table next week to hammer out a fair agreement that keeps passengers moving safely and efficiently at the international gateway to Southern California,” the mayor said.

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