Northwest Airlines Flight Attendants Reach Tentative Agreement

Thursday, April 26th 2007, 12:40 pm
By: News On 6

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Flight attendants at Northwest Airlines Corp. tentatively settled on pay cuts on Thursday, salvaging a potential $182 million share of the airline's reorganization in exchange for the millions more they have given up.

The union and the airline both said the agreement reached early Thursday met the $195 million target for yearly savings that the airline demanded. Other terms of the new agreement weren't disclosed.

The deal requires approval by rank-and-file flight attendants, who voted down tentative agreements twice last year. Northwest, with a judge's permission, imposed the changes under the first rejected agreement last summer.

Other unions agreed to pay cuts as Northwest reorganized under bankruptcy protection, and pilots and ground workers received claims that they have been cashing in for 80 cents on the dollar or more. But the terms imposed on flight attendants did not include a bankruptcy claim.

The union acknowledged earlier this week that it would need to make a deal quickly if it were to have a shot at getting a claim in time to vote in Northwest's bankruptcy reorganization.

May 7 is the deadline for holders of unsecured claims to vote on Northwest's reorganization plan. Northwest has said it expects to emerge from bankruptcy protection in June.

``A concessionary agreement is never cause to celebrate and is never easy,'' said Jay Hong, President of the Northwest branch of the flight attendant's union. ``But this tentative agreement gives our members an opportunity to vote on whether to take the $182 million bankruptcy claim and other improvements before the claim is lost when the airline exits bankruptcy.''

The $182 million claim works out to about $15,000 to $18,000 per flight attendant, depending on market conditions, the union said Thursday. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA represents more than 9,000 flight attendants.

Mediated negotiations resumed on April 18 and lasted through the weekend after the union lost in several attempts to regain leverage.

Judges blocked their effort to strike after Northwest imposed terms, saying the airline had acted within the law. The union might have won back its right to strike if the National Mediation Board declared the talks at an impasse.

Instead, the NMB has repeatedly declined to end the talks, most recently last week. And a bankruptcy judge rejected the union's request to shrink the size of Northwest's demands, or to award it a bankruptcy claim.