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Wed, Oct 29, 2003

Strike Bytes: NWA Next?

Pilots' Work Stoppage Would End NWA Service to Over One Hundred Cities, Says Union

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) announced Tuesday that Mesaba Airlines pilots have overwhelmingly authorized a strike should union leaders call for a work stoppage at one of the nation's largest regional airlines. The pilots voted 98 percent in favor of a strike.

"Our goal is a fair and equitable contract, not a strike," said Captain Tom Wychor, chairman of the Mesaba unit of ALPA. "The bargaining process needs a deadline so that we can achieve this goal."

The pilots agreed to a concessionary contract in 1996, saving the company more than $10 million in labor costs to date. Starting salaries for Mesaba pilots, who operate both jet and turboprop airliners, is less than $17,000 per year. After three years that salary is only $24,000.

Contract negotiations between Mesaba and ALPA commenced in June of 2001, and have been federally mediated since August 2002. Remaining open issues include compensation, job security, work rules and retirement.

"Our pilots have sent a clear and bold message to management today," said Wychor after the authorization results were announced. "If we can't come to terms with management on a new agreement that recognizes our contributions to this company, our pilots are prepared to strike."

ALPA has petitioned the National Mediation Board (NMB), the government agency that oversees airline and railroad labor disputes, for a release from mediation. This would trigger a 30-day cooling off period after which pilots could strike. The NMB has not yet made a formal response to the request.



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