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Thu, Mar 02, 2006

Northwest, Delta Pilots Union Talks Fail To Reach Deals

Earlier Strike Threats May Now Become Reality

As the Wednesday deadline passed with no deals reached between Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines, and their respective pilots unions, the possibility of pilots strikes now looms large over those proceedings.

US Bankruptcy Court Judge Allan Gropper also failed to rule on whether Northwest could toss its existing contract with its pilots to force concessions upon them -- essentially allowing the carrier to force the pay cuts if it chooses to do so. That would almost certainly force pilots with that carrier to strike, a move the pilots union voted to authorize earlier this week.

For the moment, however, both sides continue to work to hash out a deal. That's a potential bright spot for Northwest, at least, as is the news a second union that had gone to the wall with the carrier over concessions -- the Professional Flight Attendants Association -- agreed Wednesday to accept a cut in their pay and benefits, in exchange for Northwest agreeing to drop its requirement of more foreign (read, cheaper) flight attendants on overseas routes.

As for Delta, talks between that carrier's pilot union and management have broken off. As the case now heads to third-party arbitration, the pilot's union told the Associated Press it would conduct a strike vote of its own in the near future.

Both carriers, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last September 14, state they need substantial concessions from their workers in order to survive. Pilots -- who have already agreed to earlier concessions in both cases -- say they've paid enough.

In either case, a prolonged pilots strike would likely doom the airlines. A Delta spokesman aptly described such a strike as "murder-suicide".

Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch would not comment on whether -- or when -- the company would force terms upon its pilots. "It's our intention to continue negotiations until the judge makes his decision," he said.



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