Ignoring their union's recommendation, flight attendants for Alaska Airlines rejected a tentative five-year contract that included some...

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Ignoring their union’s recommendation, flight attendants for Alaska Airlines rejected a tentative five-year contract that included some pay raises but also called for higher health-insurance costs and less-attractive work rules.

Just over 60 percent of the participating flight attendants voted against the tentative agreement, which was reached during marathon negotiations in May.

The move will send management and union representatives back into mediation.

The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) also plans to hold a strike vote “to show management we’re willing to strike for a better agreement,” said Veda Shook, president of the union at Alaska. But no timetable has been set for the strike vote, and the AFA told members recently that it would be “a long while” before they could strike.

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The federal Railway Labor Act, which covers airlines, allows workers to strike only after a mediator declares that the parties have reached an impasse.

In a question-and-answer message to members before the vote, the AFA called the proposed contract “a very sound agreement in any time and absolutely the best agreement in these times.”

Still, Shook said she is not disappointed by the vote. “The flight attendants have clearly said that what is in this contract is not sufficient.”

Last week, Alaska’s pilots overwhelmingly rejected a tentative agreement that would have meant less-severe pay cuts than those imposed on them by an arbitrator in April.

Union leaders said the airline’s 1,453 pilots preferred to take the pay cuts imposed by an arbitrator rather than pay higher health-insurance premiums and make other concessions called for in their tentative agreement.

The pilots union has asked a federal district court to vacate the arbitrator’s decision.

Ray Neidl, an airline analyst at Calyon Securities in New York, said the pilots’ contract “should lead the way for the other unions. That’s the type of sacrifice that’s going to be necessary to keep Alaska Airlines competitive.”

Alaska has been negotiating with the union representing its 2,375 flight attendants for almost two years, including about a year in mediation. Their contract became amendable in October 2003.

Alaska CEO Bill Ayer said he is disappointed with the vote.

“Our goal remains to achieve a collaborative agreement with the features Alaska needs to compete, grow and offer good jobs and a secure future,” he said in a written statement.

Alaska is in negotiations with four other employee groups. It is in mediation with 2,838 clerical, office and passenger-service employees who are represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

That union also represents 1,072 baggage handlers and stores agents, with whom mediated negotiations are scheduled to resume next month.

The airline incensed the IAM in May when it outsourced the jobs of 472 unionized baggage handlers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Alaska’s 703 aircraft technicians, cleaners and fleet-service workers have reached a tentative agreement with the company, and results of that union vote are expected July 29.

The airline also has 35 dispatchers with whom a tentative agreement has been reached, although specific contract language is being finalized.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com