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Tue, Feb 01, 2005

Mixed Labor Signals At UAL

Mechanics Threaten To Strike, Pilots Approve Wage Cut Deal

Workers at bankrupt United Airlines Monday sent mixed signals as the carrier continued its struggle for solvency. While pilots approved a wage cut deal, union mechanics turned down the airline's new contract offer, threatening to strike if the airline's will was imposed upon them by the federal court.

The pilots' deal followed word that union flight attendants had also reached an agreement with the airline.

"The sacrifices borne by the flight attendants in contract changes that include reduced hourly rates of pay to 1991 levels will have a harsh affect on flight attendants and our families," said Greg Davidowitch, president of the AFA executive council at United, in a statement. He was quoted by CNN.

But salary cuts for mechanics, which would have saved United $96 million a year, were turned down by the union's rank and file on Monday. "The employees have shown that they do not have faith in the company's ability to successfully return United Airlines to profitability," said O.V. Delle-Femine, the union's national director, in a statement quoted by the Washington Post.

A spokesman for United said the airline was "disappointed" in the mechanics' decision.

But not every analyst closely watching United's attempt to exit bankruptcy was impressed by the mechanics' decision.

"This is a delicate game [the mechanics] are playing," Aaron Gellman said. He's a professor at the Transportation Center for Chicago's Northwest University. He, too, spoke with the Washington Post. "It threatens the viability of United."

FMI: www.united.com

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