USAir, striking Machinists reach tentative agreement Full flight schedule planned Monday

October 09, 1992|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,Staff Writer

USAir plans to resume its normal flight schedules by Monday after a marathon bargaining session in Washington led to a tentative settlement yesterday between the company and striking Machinists.

Voting by union locals was expected to begin today, and union officials predicted that the proposed contract would be quickly ratified.

The tentative agreement reached late yesterday morning between the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and USAir apparently satisfied both the union's demands about job security and the financially troubled company's need for pay and benefit reductions.

"Our negotiators feel they have resolved the job-security issue which was the main sticking point," said Jim Conley, a spokesman for the union. "We're going to do everything we can to expedite the process and get the company up in the air as soon as we can."

The 8,300 Machinists are expected to remain off the job until final tally is received. Details of the agreement will not be made public until it is ratified by union members.

The strike, which began early Monday, forced the nation' sixth-largest airline to cancel more than one-third of its 2,700 jet flights nationwide and 80 percent of jet service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The company's 2,000 commuter and express flights -- including 110 at Baltimore -- were not affected by the contract dispute.

USAir is the largest carrier at BWI, handling 14,000 of its 27,000 daily passengers.

Since the walkout began, thousands of airline passengers have been juggling their vacation and business plans by rebooking on other USAir flights or with carriers who have been taking the airline's tickets.

The airline has not only been forced to cancel many of its flight but also to reimburse rival airlines that accepted USAir tickets. It also has been paying pilots their regular salaries, even if their flights were canceled by the strike.

Still, airline officials said the negotiations were financiall successful.

"We achieved our goal of reducing costs for both the near an long term," Seth E. Schofield, chief executive officer of USAir, said in a statement. The company has lost $675 million during the past two years.

"USAir will be at full prestrike service levels at all of the 12 airports on our domestic and international route network on Monday morning," he said.

After the tentative agreement was reached yesterday morning Mr. Schofield announced an incentive to regain passengers it might have lost and to attract new ones.

The airline said it would immediately offer a special one-tim "Welcome Back Bonus" of 6,000 miles to members of its Frequent Traveler Program who take a USAir flight by next Friday that originates in North America, or a USAir shuttle flight serving Washington, New York and Boston.

"If we got our jobs assured, the strike will be more than worth it, said Winston A. Rubie, president of Local 846, which represents the 168 machinists and ground workers at BWI.

USAir began asking its workers last year to accept wage an benefit reductions that it said could save $400 million in 1992.

The Airline Pilots Association agreed to accept the package in June, and the pilots crossed the Machinists' picket lines and continued working this week.

But the Machinists said they were being asked to accept deeper cuts than other employees. They said the airline was trying to replace some union members with less skilled non-union help for tasks such as aircraft de-icing.

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