US Airways brings campaign to BWI workers Executives repeat threat of job, flight cuts in effort to settle with pilots union

April 18, 1997|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,SUN STAFF

US Airways top executives continued to put pressure on the airline's pilots yesterday, bringing their campaign to Baltimore where the carrier has threatened to cut even more jobs and flights.

As they had done in Charlotte, N.C., last week, US Airways Chief Executive Stephen M. Wolf and President Rakesh Gangwal told workers here that the airline critically needs to attain cost cuts to compete with the growing number of discount airlines and with the major carriers, such as United, which are rapidly expanding their fleets.

They laid out stark alternatives to attaining those cuts -- including all but eliminating the carrier's money-losing operation at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, ending its Florida service and its transcontinental flights.

US Airways already has pared its operation at BWI to 75 jet flights a day, half what it operated in 1990. Two weeks ago, it announced plans to cut 20 more daily flights in June and lay off several hundred more workers there.

Even so, the Arlington, Va.-based airline remains the dominant carrier at BWI, where it leases 24 gates on Pier D. Further cutbacks would be devastating to travelers and to US Airways' 1,900 employees there.

The negotiations with US Airways pilots have been going on for more than a year, with little progress, say company officials.

"We're having very wonderful, leisurely discussions, and that is it," Gangwal told more than 300 US Airways workers gathered at the BWI Marriott Hotel for the latest in a series of meetings with employees at key airports.

The talks are being conducted with the pilots first because they are the highest-paid employees and are being asked to take the most significant cuts, to enable US Airways to launch a low-cost express operation similar to United's and Delta's.

The airline's other unions, including flight attendants and mechanics, will not settle before the pilots.

In interviews yesterday, several pilots, who declined to be identified, said the Air Line Pilots Association has proposed a deal under which pilots who fly the proposed express operation would get the same pay as Southwest Airlines' pilots.

But the two sides are still far apart on what percentage of the company's overall operation should be express flights. US Airways is seeking 40 percent while the pilots want less than half that.

The company is trying to convince its pilots that future growth, helped by cost cuts, will offset wage losses by providing opportunities for more flying time.

Pilots yesterday continued to insist that they have been reasonable at the negotiating table. "He [Wolf] makes the

presentation like we're the holdup," said Ed O'Campo, a US Airways pilot for 10 years. "There are a lot of complex issues I think the negotiations are a lot farther along than both sides let on."

JTC "We'll give him whatever he wants, but we want protections -- stock options and assurances that, if the concessions result in the growth, he promises that we'll prosper, too," said another pilot.

Wolf said yesterday that stock incentives and profit sharing are possible options. He said that hefty cuts already imposed on nonunionized passenger service workers, like ticket and gate agents, will be taken into consideration and that some adjustments might to be made to reflect those concessions.

With other unionized employees, the company is expected to seek across-the-board cuts.

"In the end, you might find it to be quite reasonable," Wolf said.

Pub Date: 4/18/97

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