Tags: Tentative | Pact | Ends | United | Strike | Threat

Tentative Pact Ends United Strike Threat

Monday, 18 February 2002 12:00 AM

The strike was scheduled for Tuesday night had the talks failed.

"United and the International Association of machinists District 141-M today have reached tentative agreement on a contract with the airline's mechanics, utility workers, and related employees," United Chief Executive Officer Jack Creighton said. "With the agreement, our customers can be confident that United will continue to operate without disruption."

Details of the proposed settlement were not released, but Creighton said the union would forward the contract to the rank-and-file mechanics for a ratification vote within the next two weeks.

IAM leaders unanimously recommended a "yes" vote on the pact, which will go to the membership on March 5," said IAM spokesman Joe Tiberi. A 12:01 a.m. Feb. 20, 2002, strike deadline was postponed until March 7.

Averting a walkout was critical to United's turnaround plan after its parent, UAL Corp., lost $2.1 billion last year. United, the nation's second-largest airline, cut 20,000 employees and more than 20 percent of its scheduled flights after the Sept. 11 terror attacks and lost an estimated $10 million a day in the fourth quarter.

No progress had been reported during weekend negotiations and the talks resumed Monday morning under a news blackout.

District Lodge 141-M President and lead negotiator Scotty Ford had told mechanics and plane cleaners who were off on President's Day to remove their toolboxes and personal items from United maintenance centers at the end of their shifts in anticipation of a strike.

However, immediately after word of the tentative agreement, employees were told by the union to leave their belongings at work.

"The message we're trying to get out to our members at this point is that we do have a tentative agreement reached, and we believe we've averted a strike at this point," IAM spokesman Rom Reardon told WFLD-TV.

"Actually, I think both sides really came together trying to get this thing done. Obviously, both United and us were interested in avoiding a strike if we could and it looks as if we've done that. We and our members both understood that there was a lot at stake in these negotiations," he said.

Reardon said the main sticking points in negotiations were how the airline's financial recovery package would affect machinists retroactively, retirement and wage issues and work rules.

United is 55 percent employee-owned. Members of the Air Line Pilots Association have 28 percent of the employee's share. While bankruptcy was seen as a worst-case scenario, both sides asked the federal government not to intervene in the bargaining.

Last Tuesday, United's 12,845 mechanics overwhelmingly rejected a contract recommended by a Presidential Emergency Board that would have given them an immediate 37 percent raise -- their first since 1994 -- but would have required them to give back wage concessions to United.

Top pay for United machinists is $25.60 an hour, compared to $34 an hour at rival American Airlines.

The proposed contract would have increased top pay to $35.14 an hour, the highest in the aviation industry, rising to $37.54 in 2004.

Crain's Chicago Business said Elk Grove, Ill.-based UAL Corp., had hired Chicago bankruptcy attorney James Sprayregen in case a prolonged walkout prompted travelers to cancel near-term bookings.

Sprayregen, 42, was lead attorney for Trans World Airlines, which filed for bankruptcy last year before being merged with AMR Corp., parent of American Airlines.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The strike was scheduled for Tuesday night had the talks failed. United and the International Association of machinists District 141-M today have reached tentative agreement on a contract with the airline's mechanics, utility workers, and related employees, United...
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2002-00-18
Monday, 18 February 2002 12:00 AM
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