DALLAS (AP) — American Airlines said Tuesday that several top executives are leaving the financially troubled company including its chief labor negotiator.
Jeff Brundage, 58, will step down as senior vice president of human resources. He will be replaced by Denise Lynn, 51, who will become senior vice president, people.
Brundage will remain on American's payroll as an adviser until the airline completes its overhaul of labor costs, the company said.
Just last week, Brundage testified in federal court to support the company's bid to use the bankruptcy process to break its contracts with unions for pilots, flight attendants and ground workers.
"Jeff has served in one of the most challenging roles in our company — he's done it ably and with great determination, perspective, and resolve," said CEO Thomas Horton.
Gregg Overman, a spokesman for the pilots' union, said the departures of Brundage and other executives "don't do anything to change the very serious concerns we have about the business plan."
As the airline's negotiator, Brundage came under steady fire from labor unions. For several years, the company and unions were unable to negotiate new contracts. The unions wanted raises. Brundage said the company had to reduce labor costs, not increase them.
After American and parent company AMR Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection in November, the talks became even more difficult, with American seeking to scuttle the existing contracts, eliminate 13,000 union jobs — since scaled back to 10,000 jobs — freeze or terminate pension plans and outsource more flying to other airlines.
The unions responded by reaching contract deals last month with US Airways, which promised less-severe cuts if it can complete a merger with American.
Brundage was also American's lead negotiator in 2003 when the unions agreed to cuts in pay and benefits just in time to avert a bankruptcy filing.
American Airlines spokesman Bruce Hicks said Brundage stepped down voluntarily. The company declined to say how much Brundage earned in salary in his previous job or how much he will be paid as an adviser.
American, the nation's third-biggest airline, lost more than $10 billion in the decade before filing for bankruptcy and losses have mounted since November.
The company said the leaders of its cargo division, airport services, vice president of information technology, and vice president of customer technology will also leave.
American said that combined with previous moves to eliminate executive jobs, Tuesday's announcements represented a 20 percent reduction in senior executive positions.
In a letter to colleagues, Brundage said that for "many reasons, it is my time to move on." He indicated no clear plans after his consulting stint is over.
"We've taken on some extraordinary challenges over the past decade — twice working to rewrite collective bargaining agreements under the unrelenting pressure of financial difficulties and competitive threats," Brundage said in a letter to colleagues.
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