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Tue, Dec 09, 2003

Mesaba Pilots: Arbitration Not An Acceptable Option

Strike Looming?

The pilot union leadership for Mesaba Airlines voted unanimously to decline arbitration to settle the pilot contract between Mesaba and ALPA.

The Mesaba ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC) -- made up of 12 pilot- representatives -- made the following statement in the resolution declining the NMB offer: " ... the Mesaba MEC does not view binding arbitration as an acceptable option to settle the contract, in accordance with the mandate of the Mesaba pilot group ... "

The National Mediation Board (NMB) is expected to announce the exact strike deadline later this week. The deadline, which comes at the end of a 30-day cooling off period, would likely occur in the second week of January. Mesaba pilots voted 98 percent in favor of a work stoppage in October. A strike would impact 600 daily departures for Northwest Airlines that are operated by Mesaba pilots.

The pilots' contract with Mesaba became amendable in June 2002, and the NMB offered binding arbitration last Friday after declaring negotiations at an impasse. Main contract issues at stake for ALPA include job security, compensation, retirement and work rules.

"We provide Mesaba and Northwest with extraordinary operational performance, and an impeccably clean safety record. Yet half of our highly proficient and educated pilots are compensated less than taxi drivers," said Kris Pierson, pilot spokesman and member of the MEC. "Half of the Mesaba pilot group earns less than $33,000 a year, with starting salaries less than $17,000.

Mesaba serves 114 cities in 30 states and Canada from Northwest's three major hubs: Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Memphis. Mesaba employs 844 professional airline pilots who operate an advanced fleet of 103 regional jet and jet-prop aircraft.

FMI: www.alpa.org

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