November 9, 2014 / 8:13 PM / in 3 years

American Airlines attendants reject contract by 16 votes

People wait for a US Airways flight to depart for North Carolina from Miami International Airport in Miami September 3, 2014.Carlo Allegri

NEW YORK (Reuters) - American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) flight attendants narrowly rejected a joint labor contract on Sunday, in a defeat following the merger of American and the former US Airways last year that brought together a combined workforce of some 24,500 U.S.-based stewards.

The contract was defeated by 16 votes, according to the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents both legacy American Airlines workers as well as those who joined from U.S. Airways. Had it passed, it would have been the first contract since the merger of the two airlines to apply to workers from both carriers.

Of the ballots counted, 8,180 voted "Yes," while 8,196 voted "No." Under a protocol agreement, the proposed deal will be submitted for arbitration, APFA said, with the first date for arbitration set for Dec. 3. Until the arbitration is completed and a new contract is awarded, the two groups will continue to work under their current contracts.

American Airlines said it was "disappointed" with the outcome of Sunday's vote.

"This tentative agreement included industry-leading pay and benefits, and would have provided considerably more economic value and much better work rules than the contract that will be determined by arbitration," the company said in a statement, noting that the next steps are to meet with APFA to prepare for the arbitration process.

Reporting by Ashley Lau in New York; Editing by Chris Reese

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