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AGREEMENTS elude negotiations, but talks continuing


WASHINGTON (AP) _ Contract talks between United Airlines and its mechanics union broke up without an agreement Wednesday, but more negotiations were scheduled.

The National Mediation Board said the airline and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Lodge 141-M will meet again with federal mediators June 20.

The dispute is one of several in the industry that remain unresolved. Pilots for regional carrier Comair have been on strike for more than two months. American Airlines' flight attendants are counting down to a strike as early as June 30 _ unless President Bush intervenes. Continuing negotiations have failed to produce an agreement.

United's mechanics are pressing for an industry-leading contract in light of a four-year agreement approved last month by Northwest's mechanics, which made them the industry's highest-paid with an average pay raise of more than 24 percent.

Northwest mechanics are represented by a rival union, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, which also has moved to represent United's mechanics.

United and the mechanics union ``exchanged positions regarding the implication of recent settlements in the industry with the objective of establishing standards for an industry-leading agreement,'' the National Mediation Board said.

The union last month asked federal mediators to be released from further negotiations, which would trigger a strike countdown. The two sides have been negotiating a contract since December 1999.

The National Mediation Board has refused to cut loose the union and cited the ``pending representation dispute.'' The board has not decided whether an election will be held.

``That obviously is going to have quite an effect on whether the talks go further,'' union spokesman Frank Larkin said.

About 31,000 United passenger service, ramp and retail workers also are represented by IAM, and mediated contract talks also have been continuing in that case, the board said. Those workers also have asked to end talks without success.

In another labor dispute, the striking Comair pilots and the carrier, based in the Cincinnati area, are to meet in Washington on Friday with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.

The meeting was arranged after Ohio Gov. Bob Taft asked Mineta for help last week to revive negotiations to end the strike, which started March 26.

Comair and its pilots union have not met since May 12, when the pilots overwhelmingly rejected a settlement proposed by the National Mediation Board.

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