Contract talks between America West
Holdings Corp. and its flight attendants have hit an impasse and
a binding arbitration was the best next step, the National
Mediation Board said Monday.
Talks were suspended Wednesday after negotiations to hammer
out a first contract for the flight attendants broke down on
Jan. 29 with the sides $16.5 million apart. The mediation board
said Monday it requested that both parties agree to submit all
remaining open issues to binding arbitration.
Under the rules of the Railway Labor Act the law that
governs airline labor negotiations and disputes if either
side declines arbitration, a 30-day cooling-off period will
If no agreement is reached in that time, American West
flight attendants, members of the Association of Flight
Attendants (AFA), have said they would strike.
"Our goal has always been to reach a fair contract for the
flight attendants," said William McGlashen, President of AFA
Council 66. "But the company's been unreasonable. We're
prepared to fight for a fair agreement even if management forces
us to strike to get it."
Officials at Phoenix-based America West, a low-fare airline
serving the western United States, were not immediately
available for comment.
The AFA has indicated that it may call for a mass walkout
for a day or a week at a time, with no advance notice. Or flight
attendants may walk off individual flights at random and with no
warning, the U.S. mediators said.
America West flight attendants have been negotiating for a
contract since 1994. Mediated negotiations began in July 1997
and a tentative pact was reached in October of that year, but
was subsequently rejected by 88 percent of the flight
Negotiations resumed in March 1998. In November, 99 percent
of the attendants voted to authorize a strike, if necessary.
America West, the nation's ninth-largest airline, said last
month that several airlines had emerged as possible suitors.
UAL Corp.'s United Airlines and Delta Air Lines Inc. have
expressed interest, and Continental Airlines Inc. has indicated
it may step in to exercise its rights regarding America West
America West's biggest shareholder said Thursday it would
sell its America West shares only if a buyer acquired all of the
company's Class A and Class B shares.
The shareholder, TPG Partners LP, owns 941,431 Class A
shares of America West, giving it control of 49 percent of the
voting interest in the airline.
Continental owns 158,569 Class A share, representing close
to 8 percent of the voting interest, and has the right of first
refusal on TPG's America West shares if TPG decides to sell.