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No deal as Northwest strike looms

Thu., Aug. 18, 2005

MINNEAPOLIS – The union that represents Northwest mechanics said Wednesday that two days of mediated talks with the airline led to some progress in heading off a looming strike, but that a deal was not yet within reach.

“While it appears we are resolving language issues we have not yet tentatively agreed to a complete article,” read an update posted on the Web site of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association. It was written by Jeff Mathews, the union’s contract coordinator, on behalf of the negotiating committee.

Representatives for Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest and the mechanics union have been negotiating in Washington, D.C., since Monday morning, in the hopes of heading off a strike that could start Saturday.

The update from Mathews is the first report from inside the negotiations, and it details a flurry of offers and counteroffers between Northwest and AMFA.

A spokesman for Northwest declined to offer comment on the AMFA update, saying only that the airline is happy negotiations are continuing and still hopes to head off the strike.

In the face of operating losses and possible bankruptcy, Northwest is seeking $1.1 billion in annual savings through concessions from its employees, including $176 million from mechanics. It’s asking mechanics to accept a 25-percent pay cut, and wants to lay off about 2,000 of the 4,500 mechanics represented by the union.

Northwest also wants to be able to hire contractors to do some of the work now done by AMFA’s mechanics, cleaners and custodians.

The AMFA update offered few specifics of the negotiations, but indicated that Northwest is not backing down from its stance that it can’t retain the AMFA-represented cleaners and custodians.

Mathews wrote that the union still does not accept the proposed layoffs – but indicated that if it were to be considered, it would have to be much more generous.

“We did not entertain the idea of getting rid of the Cleaners or Custodians but did point out that their proposal was grossly inferior when compared to the severance package provided to the same employee group at bankrupt United Airlines,” Mathews wrote.


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