5.05.17 – (LAA/LUS) – No Agreement Reached on Joint Testing Protocol

APFA Special Hotline

Friday, May 5, 2017

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No Agreement Reached on Joint Testing Protocol

Since the roll-out of the new uniforms last fall, APFA has received reports from more than 3,200 Flight Attendants about suspected health reactions to those uniforms. In late March, the Company announced—as a result of APFA’s persistence—that it was making available to Flight Attendants an alternative uniform, manufactured by Aramark. To date, over 7,000 Flight Attendants have ordered the Aramark uniform, which will be provided by the Company at no cost to Flight Attendants. We encourage all Flights Attendants who have concerns about the current uniform to order this alternative.

However, as we said at the time the alternative uniform was first announced, it is an interim solution at best. We continue to demand that the Company find a permanent solution to ensure that all Flight Attendants have confidence in the uniforms they wear. To that end, we are writing to give you an update on one important subject that was mentioned in past hotlines regarding the uniform issue—joint testing.

In December, APFA communicated with the Company about designing a joint testing program for performing additional chemical tests on the current uniforms. From APFA’s perspective, a joint testing program would be beneficial because it would, in theory, produce reliable results that could not be called into question, and it would enable APFA to test many more uniform pieces than we could on our own. As we said at the time, and as we consistently informed the Company, we were willing to agree to a joint testing program so long as it was thorough, scientific, and designed to provide meaningful information.  

Through the winter and early spring, APFA worked extensively with the Company, with input from our own toxicologist, to design a protocol that would meet these criteria. Although there were many subjects on which the Company and Union did not see eye-to-eye, we remained hopeful that we would ultimately come to agreement on a joint testing program. APFA had identified to the Company a qualified laboratory to do the testing, and we had identified the number of each garment in the manufacturer’s warehouse that should be tested. We had even set a tentative date with the Company for APFA representatives to visit the uniform manufacturer’s warehouse in Houston to select sample garments for testing. 

Unfortunately, it has since become apparent to APFA that we will not be able to reach agreement on a joint testing program due to two unreasonable conditions insisted on by the Company. The first was the testing of worn uniform pieces—that is, uniform pieces worn by Flight Attendants who had reported a suspected reaction. It has been APFA’s position that a meaningful joint testing protocol should include the testing of worn pieces since, logically, there may be a link between substances that may be present in those specific pieces and the suspected reactions that have been reported to APFA. However, the Company would not agree to include worn items in any joint testing protocol. As a result, as a way forward, APFA informed the Company that it would agree to a joint testing protocol that only included unworn items from the manufacturer’s warehouse—but that it would continue to test worn items on its own as well.

The second issue was even more fundamental. Late in the discussions, the Company informed APFA for the first time that it would only agree to a joint testing protocol if the Company and APFA would agree in advance to a joint interpretation of the testing results. In other words, APFA’s toxicologist and the Company’s toxicologists would have to agree on what the results of the chemical testing mean with respect to the safety of the uniforms before communicating those results to Flight Attendants. Alternatively, the Company suggested that APFA and the Company could leave the interpretation of the results to another toxicologist, who would be jointly selected by both parties.

APFA simply cannot agree to this unreasonable condition. While we would hope that APFA and the Company would interpret any future test results in the same way, we cannot promise in advance that we would reach the same conclusions about the meaning of the test results. The condition would, in effect, give the Company a veto over APFA’s communication to its members about an important health and safety issue affecting Flight Attendants. We cannot and will not agree to that.

APFA is extremely disappointed that the Company has placed these conditions on a joint testing program, particularly in light of the time and resources that APFA has devoted to this project over many months. However, as we said at the outset, APFA would only agree to a joint testing program that was meaningful, and the Company’s conditions have made that impossible.  

Although there do not appear to be any prospects for future joint testing on the horizon, APFA is undeterred in its efforts to investigate the safety of the current uniforms. APFA intends to perform additional uniform testing on its own, albeit on a smaller scale than would have been possible through a joint testing program with the Company. As we have informed the Company, APFA will continue to investigate and communicate with its members any potential safety issues regarding the current uniforms so long as Flight Attendants continue to wear them.

Additional Information:

APFA continues to encourage Flight Attendants to submit a uniform reaction report to APFA if you experience a suspected reaction to your uniform:  

New Uniform Reaction Report Form

In addition, we encourage you to order the Aramark uniform if you have any concerns about the current uniform. The deadline for placing an order is May 21, 2017. Please review the Frequently Asked Questions about the Aramark collection.

You should also consider filing an IOD, depending on your personal circumstances, if you have experienced an injury or illness that you suspect is related to your uniform. Instructions for filing are posted below, but if you have questions about filing an IOD, you can contact Bellia Peckson at iod@apfa.org. 

IOD Filing Procedures: 

LUS Flight Attendants will file an IOD via the Flight Service Website by clicking on Safety and Security then LUS Injury on Duty Report, formally known as a Safety Event Report (SER).

Another option for LUS Flight Attendants to report an IOD is through JetNet by selecting Departments, then Worker’s Compensation then Flight Service. Select Complete “IOD Reportunder Injury Reporting LUS. If you do not seek medical attention and later require medical care, contact the LUS Injury on Duty Administrator Team at 800 327 0117, prompt 2, 5,4,3
LAA – You will need to file an IOD with your supervisor. Contact the MOD if your supervisor is not available. If you do not seek immediate medical attention and later require medical care, contact the Injury on Duty Administrator Team at 1 800 VIP-CREW.  
Select option #,6, 4.

Marcy Dunaway
APFA National Secretary


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