US Airways, machinists union recess negotiations for few days

Sides at odds over value of some concessions

July 18, 2002|By Paul Adams | Paul Adams,SUN STAFF

US Airways and its machinists' union have temporarily recessed formal negotiations until the two sides can agree on the value of certain pay and benefit concessions the company is seeking.

Financial analysts for both sides continue to meet in an effort to resolve the issue, and negotiations are expected to resume within a few days.

The struggling Arlington, Va.-based airline is seeking up to $261 million in yearly savings from the International Association of Machinists in a restructuring plan aimed at returning the airline to profitability.

An agreement with the union, which represents mechanics, baggage handlers and ramp workers, is considered critical to the plan.

In a message to members yesterday, Scotty Ford, president and general chairman of the IAM's District Lodge 141-M, said the two sides are far apart. "Your committee refuses to concede any issue to US Airways as far as value is concerned," Ford said. "Our goal has been and still remains to limit the financial burden on our membership and insure their job security."

At issue is the dollar value the company has placed on some concessions.

"We need to have a common starting point," said Joseph Tiberi, a union spokesman, noting that the airline is using a different method from the union in valuing the concessions. "We need to come to some type of agreement so we are both talking about the same things across the table."

A US Airways official said that the parties are not at an impasse and that negotiators for both sides are scheduled to meet again by Monday.

"Our financial advisers and IAM's financial advisers are continuing to talk," said US Airways spokesman David Castelveter.

US Airways needs to secure pay and benefit concessions from its major labor groups to win final approval for a $900 million federal loan guarantee that would be the foundation for $1 billion in new financing. The nation's seventh-largest airline lost $2 billion last year and needs the cash infusion to finance its restructuring plan.

Pilots, flight attendants and several smaller unions have reached tentative agreements with management. The IAM and the Communications Workers of America, which represents reservation agents and other service workers, are the only major unions that have not reached a deal.

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