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Northwest Strike Looms

The likelihood of an August 20 strike by mechanics, cleaners and custodians ballooned yesterday as Northwest Airlines representatives refused to move beyond ‘unacceptable’ demands in a last-ditch negotiating session called by the National Mediation Board.
“Northwest’s continued refusal to engage in meaningful negotiations destroyed yesterday’s session and left little hope for a consensual agreement needed to avert a strike,” said AMFA National Director O.V. Delle-Femine. “There is no use scheduling another negotiating session unless both parties come prepared to negotiate.”
Delle-Femine said that in yesterday’s session, Northwest repeated its previous demand that would require AMFA members to approve a contract in which 53 percent of them would lose their jobs. “Common sense should tell Northwest that’s a non-starter.” Other demands already deemed non-acceptable by AMFA include pay cuts for remaining employees of 25-26 percent, along with other major concessions.
“Even at this late date, Northwest still has not developed a comprehensive counter-proposal to our last economic proposal that offered generous 16 percent pay cuts and other important concessions,” he said. “Northwest’s only new offers in yesterday’s session consisted of a single sentence about limited job protection for remaining employees—the individuals, not the positions—and meager profit-sharing, which in the current economic environment is likely to amount to nothing at all.”
“The only logical conclusion you can draw from Northwest’s refusal to take multiple negotiation sessions seriously, and their rejection of arbitration, is that the company’s strategy has always been to enter bankruptcy in order to get more concessions. If Northwest goes bankrupt, it will be by choice and they’ll have no one to blame but themselves,” Delle-Femine added.
A strike by AMFA mechanics, cleaners and custodians could begin at any point after 12:01 a.m. Eastern time on August 20, 2005. In July, an overwhelming 92.4 percent of its Northwest members voted to authorize Delle-Femine to call a strike.
Delle-Femine said Northwest is irresponsible for continuing to claim that outsourcing aircraft maintenance is just as safe and secure as doing it in-house. “An update report issued just last week by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General (IG) concluded that Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) oversight of outsourced aircraft maintenance facilities remains poor.”
The report said the FAA has “completed only one of nine promised actions” and went on to say that “FAA inspections of (domestic) repair stations were infrequent and did not encompass a review of all aspects of repair stations’ operations.” Regarding inspection of foreign repair stations, the report said, “The foreign aviation authorities did not focus on FAA standards during surveillance, and the inspection documentation provided by the authorities to FAA was incomplete or incomprehensible.”
Delle-Femine also disputed Northwest claims that replacement mechanics will keep the airline running on schedule. “Northwest executives sound like Eastern Airlines execs of old when they tell the public maintenance will continue to go smoothly during a strike. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul and Detroit hubs, hundreds of Northwest planes arrive and depart every few hours. Replacement mechanics would have to keep up with this high volume while learning from scratch how to work in this totally unfamiliar environment. They won’t even know where the tools are.
“It’s also no secret that Northwest has one of the airline industry’s oldest fleets, including 150 DC-9s and 20 DC-10s from as long ago as the 1960s,” Delle-Femine added. “Our mechanics grew up with these vintage planes and know all of their idiosyncrasies and how to keep them flying reliably. Many of the replacements will be learning to work on these aircraft for the first time.”