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Thu, Apr 27, 2006

Judge Won't Allow Comair To Void Contract With FA's

Back To The Bargaining Table..?

After delaying his decision for over a week, on Wednesday US Bankruptcy Court Judge Adlai Hardin denied Delta Air Lines regional subsidiary Comair's request to toss out its contract with its 970 flight attendants so it can impose harsh pay cuts.

In his ruling, Hardin said Comair did not meet the requirements of the bankruptcy law that would allow the rejection of the collection bargaining agreement... and while flight attendants are understandably pleased with the ruling, it throws into limbo two other cost-cutting arrangements the Erlanger, OH-based airline had previously made with its unionized mechanics and pilots.

Because Comair had set the cuts for flight attendants at $8.9 million in its deals with the other unions -- a figure that, with the judge's ruling, it can no longer guarantee -- the carrier did not meet the good faith standard required for a contract to be voided.

"We're thrilled, happy, all of the above," said Lynn Dziad with Local 513 of the Interational Brotherhood of Teamsters, the union representing Comair's flight attendants. " There's been a lot of pressure on our group financially. We're waiting for the company to call us."

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports Hardin urgently requested Comair at the union to return to the bargaining table... and for both Comair and the union to limit any further "Draconian threats" made during the negotiating process -- i.e, stop talking about strikes, and get to work.

The airline had reportedly asked the attendants to return to the bargaining table last week; the flight attendants replied they wanted to wait for the judge's ruling before deciding on a next step.

Comair president Fred Buttrell said Wednesday that Hardin's decision is a blow to the airline, and to its continued existence.

"...The judge's decision is a tremendous setback for us, and as difficult as it is to acknowledge, the survival of our airline is clearly in jeopardy," Buttrell wrote in a memo to employees.

That tone may take away any leverage the flight attendants were hoping to carry into further negotiations with Comair... as did Hardin's assurance that he would consider another effort by Comair to void the contract, should the sides once again fail to reach an agreement.

"I have decided this motion and will decide any further such motion if made, based solely on the evidence and the statutory merits, without regard whatsoever to threats by either side," Hardin said.

FMI: www.comair.com, www.teamsters.org

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