Comair And Union Reach Tentative Deal

Tuesday, February 13th 2007, 7:03 am
By: News On 6

CINCINNATI (AP) _ About 20 minutes after Comair could have imposed court-approved concessions on its pilots, the two sides reached a tentative agreement early Tuesday.

The regional airline agreed to delay implementation of wage cuts and other concessions unless the agreement is not ratified by the Air Line Pilots Association by March 4, Comair spokeswoman Kate Marx said.

The proposal will be reviewed by union leadership before going to the 1,500-member union for a vote, union spokesman Paul Denke said.

``The tentative letter of agreement is a significant development for Comair and its employees, who have struggled with the difficult sacrifices of restructuring for 15 months,'' Marx said in a statement.

Neither Comair nor the union released details of the proposal.

``It's the best we could do given the situation and circumstances,'' Denke said.

He said the agreement was reached about 12:20 a.m.

Comair, based in Erlanger, Ky., was planning to impose $15.8 million in concessions at 11:59 p.m. Monday if an agreement was not reached. The deadline had been extended from 11:59 p.m. Friday, after the pilots union presented Comair with a new proposal hours before time ran out. Comair had said it extended the deadline to give the airline time to evaluate the proposal.

Comair, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines Inc., has said the pilot concessions are necessary to its restructuring plan to save $70 million annually. Comair, along with its Atlanta-based parent, filed for bankruptcy in September 2005.

The regional carrier previously had an agreement with its pilots for $17.3 million in annual cuts over the next four years. But the deal was contingent on Comair getting a certain level of savings from its flight attendants and mechanics unions.

Because the flight attendants approved a deal in November to cut annual costs by $7.9 million, $1 million less than originally required, the airline had to negotiate new deals with the machinists and pilots. The machinists agreed to a modified deal, but the pilots did not.

Although the two sides continued to negotiate into last week, pilots had authorized their union leaders in early December to call a strike if concessions were imposed.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Adlai Hardin ruled Dec. 21 that the regional airline could impose those concessions if no agreement was reached, prompting the airline to ask that he block any strike by the pilots. Hardin granted that request Wednesday.

Comair operates 795 flights daily to about 100 cities in North America.