IMPASSE declared in talks between American Airlines and its attendants

Thursday, May 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ Contract negotiations between American Airlines and its flight attendants have reached an impasse, making a walkout possible in the days leading up to the busy July 4 holiday.

The National Mediation Board on Wednesday concluded talks were deadlocked after three days of negotiations in Kansas City between American and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the union for American's flight attendants.

The mediation board then offered to arbitrate the dispute. If either the airline or the union reject the offer, the parties will be released into a 30-day cooling off period, after which the union could strike.

John Ward, the union's president, said his board likely will reject arbitration. But a final decision will come when board members meet next week.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based airline said it accepted the offer. ``We are accepting, and we hope APFA will do the same,'' American spokesman Gus Whitcomb said Wednesday.

Flight attendants have been working without a new contract for more than two years. In February, they voted to authorize a strike. But under federal law, airline employees can strike only if a mediator declares that contract talks are hopelessly deadlocked.

Flight attendants rejected a tentative agreement in 1999. The union resumed talks in early 2000 with a new negotiating team and a tougher stance. The union represents 23,000 flight attendants at the nation's largest air carrier.

The airline and AFPA have said differences remain over pay, retirement benefits and crew-rest rules.