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Wed, Mar 22, 2006

Northwest Pilots Union Takes Neutral Position On Upcoming Contract Vote

Reactions To Deals From Other Workers Mixed

Leaders of the pilots union at Northwest Airlines voted last week to take a neutral position on the tentative agreement reached with the airline earlier this month. That means while the union won't discourage its membership from approving the contract, it won't actively support the measure, either -- and that casts doubt on the deal passing muster with pilots.

Officers with the NWA Master Executive Council of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said it's up to individual pilots to decide whether the benefits of signing the agreement is worth the risks. The council's officers may voice their own opinions on the deal when presenting it to pilots, but that's it.

Earlier this month, union leadership council chairman Mark McClain told pilots he believes pilots should vote in favor of the deal, citing "no reasonable alternatives" to the agreement, which goes before the union membership for balloting April 6 through April 30.

Aero-News reported on March 3 that negotiators for Northwest and the pilots union had finally reached a tentative agreement -- ending the ongoing showdown that often appeared to be heading toward a pilots strike.

As for deals Northwest had reached with its other workers, reactions have been mixed. The Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune reports the airline's ticket and reservations agents ratified their new contract -- but baggage handlers and ramp workers tossed theirs out, which led Northwest to say it will restart the process to have their existing contract tossed out.

Members of Northwest's flight attendants union are expected to begin voting on their tentative contract later this month. Spokeswoman Karen Schultz said that like the pilots union, leaders of their union are also making no recommendation on the contract.

All of the contracts include pay cuts ranging from 11.5 percent for ground workers, to 24 percent for pilots. That's on top of the 15 percent pay cut pilots took in late 2004. The new agreement would also allow Northwest to begin a new low-cost regional subsidiary.

FMI: www.alpa.org, www.nwa.com

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