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United, Ground Workers’ Union Sign Three-Year Joint Contract

United Airlines has signed a new labor deal with baggage handlers and other ground workers. The contract gives raises to the workers and gets United closer to fully absorbing Continental Airlines.

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The contract approved Tuesday covers nearly 30,000 workers, who came from both United as well as Houston-based Continental before they merged in 2010.

“We’re looking at probably somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 people just in Houston.”

Ira Levy is airline coordinator for the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, the union that negotiated the deal. Levy says that, in addition to baggage handlers, the joint contract will also cover gate and reservation workers and storekeepers.

“The biggest thing it means is job security. That was very important to the people that we represent. And it included improvements not only in their wages but in their benefits and in their pensions.”

The ground workers’ new contract runs through 2016. This is the second group along with pilots to have a joint contract. United is still negotiating with unions representing its flight attendants and technicians.