Northwest Talks Break Down

Monday, March 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Talks were headed for an emergency board after a day of negotiations between Northwest Airlines and its mechanics union ended without an overall agreement Sunday night.

Issues of wages, pensions and back pay went unresolved as negotiators ended their discussions just after 11 p.m. CST. The two sides had reached tentative agreement on five other contract articles by late Friday.

"Over the last 48 hours, Northwest made off-the-record proposals on all economic issues," the company's senior vice president of labor relations, Robert Brodin, said in a news release late Sunday. "Despite our best efforts, we were unable to reach an agreement."

The carrier's 9,400 mechanics, cleaners and custodians represented by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association had been prepared to go on strike as early as 11:01 p.m CST Sunday before President Bush intervened on Friday.

Bush's signing of an executive order creating a presidential emergency board pushed the possibility of a strike back to mid-May at the earliest. The 4 1/2-year-old contract dispute now was expected to go to the board since the two sides failed to reach agreement by Sunday night.

"It's unfortunate that talks have been adjourned and that the negotiations between AMFA and NWA now come under the jurisdiction of the Presidential Emergency Board," O.V. Delle-Femine, the union's national director, said in a news release.

Delle-Femine said Bush intervened "just as negotiations were coming together and significant movement was being made by all parties," and that "the momentum to settle by NWA was impeded."

Delle-Femine said airline employees would demonstrate in front of the White House at 9 a.m. Monday morning.

As of Friday, the union was asking for wages of up to $36 an hour for senior mechanics, up from the current $26.50 an hour. Northwest was offering $31 an hour. On retirement, the union wanted the company to contribute $90 a month multiplied by the employee's years of service, and Northwest had offered $75.