At Richmond International Airport, twelve AirTran Airways ground support employees were notified as of June 23rd that their jobs were being outsourced to independent contractors. According to the Transportation Workers Union, which represents the twelve employees involved, Southwest Airlines intends to outsource as much as 20 percent of their ground support jobs to independent third party contractors.

After the outsourcing announcement, protests were organized at Chicago’s Midway International Airport by Transportation Workers Union members in order to garner public support for opposition to any outsourcing plans made by Southwest.

According to analysts within the industry, Southwest Airlines has generally higher labor costs than many of their competitors, signaling a potential reason for why the company has recently been outsourcing their ground support jobs.

The twelve AirTran Airways employees will have their jobs terminated at Richmond International Airport as of August 15th, but have been presented with the possibility of potentially transferring to one of eight other AirTran stations. While it is currently unknown whether any of the employees accepted a transfer, their deadline to decide was July 2nd.

Southwest Airlines spokesman Paul Flannigan has stated that the company is currently in negotiations with the Transportation Workers Union, and that any discussion of outsourcing plans remains premature. He claims both parties are in the process of exchanging proposals and ideas. Southwest Airlines is based out of Dallas, Texas and currently employs over 45,000 workers.