UNITED workers ask to end contract negotiations

Saturday, May 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The union representing 30,000 United Airlines workers is asking federal mediators to be released from further talks because negotiations are at an impasse.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers represents United's customer service, ramp, reservations, food service, security and retail employees. It has been negotiating with the Chicago-based airline for a new contract since December 1999.

Unions cannot just strike at any time. The National Mediation Board, which governs airline and railway labor issues, first must release a union from negotiations, which would trigger a 30-day ``cooling-off'' period before workers could strike.

Often, the board does not grant requests to end contract talks. United's mechanics unsuccessfully asked to be released last November.

United spokesman Joe Hopkins said the carrier was disappointed with the latest such request.

``We are totally committed to a negotiated agreement,'' Hopkins said. ``The talks are scheduled to resume next week and we plan to be there.''

Flight attendants at American Airlines also have requested to stop negotiating without success. Federal mediators ordered the union and the airline back to the bargaining table May 21-23 in Kansas City, Mo.