MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Mediators declared an impasse in negotiations between Northwest Airlines Corp. and its mechanics, beginning a 30-day cooling-off period that could end with a strike.
The impasse was granted Wednesday morning, according to Jeff Mathews, contract coordinator for the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association. He said the 30-day period ends at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Aug. 20.
Under federal labor law, the mechanics can strike or Northwest can impose new wage rules after that. Northwest has pledged to keep flying if there's a strike.
Talks are widely expected to resume as the deadline draws closer, although Mathews said no dates have been set. But even if a deal is reached, the uncertainty could hurt bookings at Northwest during the busy summer flying season. Northwest, the nation's fourth-largest airline, lost $458 million during its most recently-reported quarter.
A Northwest spokesman did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment. Mathews said the union would issue a statement later.
Mechanics authorized a strike with 92 percent of the vote on Tuesday.
Northwest, squeezed by rising fuel prices, competition from low-cost carriers, growing pension obligations and looming debt payments, is seeking $1.1 billion in annual labor cost savings from all of its workers.
The airline wants $176 million from its mechanics, or about a 25 percent pay cut. AMFA has offered temporary pay cuts it says would save $143.5 million. Northwest disputes that, though, saying the union offer is really worth only $87 million because it includes money saved from earlier layoffs.
Northwest has gotten $300 million from pilots and managers, and is seeking $148 million from flight attendants, according to their union.