The union representing Northwest Airlines
mechanics, cleaners and custodians asked airline executives to
return to the bargaining table on Monday, but told workers to
prepare for a strike vote early next month.
Northwest showed no sign of changing its position that it won't
negotiate unless asked to do so by federal mediators.
Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association leaders said late
Monday that a strike authorization vote will be held on March 2,
with a strike possible as soon as March 12, the end of a 30-day
cooling-off period that began Saturday, Steve MacFarlane, president
of Local 33, said.
The National Mediation Board declared talks between AMFA and
Northwest at an impasse on Friday after nearly 100 days of
mediation and began the 30-day countdown on Saturday. The two sides
were about $2 billion to $2.5 billion apart on wages, retroactive
pay and pensions.
However, the board angered AMFA by encouraging President Bush to
consider naming an emergency board, a fact-finding panel that would
make settlement recommendations. Bush said he would do that if no
agreement is reached by March 12 delaying any work action for
another 60 days.
"The president has the ability to twist everybody's arms some
more, which could produce a settlement. But it doesn't guarantee
one," said airline analyst Bradley Bartholomew, owner of The
AMFA leaders criticized the president for making his intentions
known before the cooling-off period had expired, saying the
government was dictating the collective bargaining process.
"This has serious implications for not only AMFA, but all
airline unions negotiating at this time. Even the threat of a
presidential emergency board could force these other unions to
accept substandard contracts," said O.V. Delle-Femine, AMFA
The country's biggest carrier, United, also is in contract talks
with its mechanics, No. 2 American Airlines is negotiating with
flight attendants and No. 3 Delta Air Lines is in negotiations with