AA contract talks to resume with mediation

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Apr. 15--Contract negotiations between American Airlines and its unionized mechanics and flight attendants will continue under federal mediation, officials said Wednesday.

Although executives at the National Mediation Board did not specify dates for the resumption of mediated contract negotiations, they advised executives of the Transport Workers Union and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants that they are reviewing union requests to be released from mediation.

Last month, both the TWU and APFA asked the NMB to release them for a 30-day "cooling-off" period that could lead to a strike against American.

After four years of contract negotiations between American and the TWU, and two years of negotiations with the APFA, mechanics and flight attendants are frustrated with the lack of progress on wage and benefit issues, union officials said.

"On behalf of the nearly 18,000 flight attendants at American, we support the Transport Workers Union's request to the National Mediation Board to be released from federal mediation," APFA President Laura Glading said last month. "We share their frustration and anger with American management for its refusal to bargain in good faith, and we will ask for release from mediation at a meeting with the NMB."

Larry Gibbons, director of NMB's office of mediation services, told TWU officials Wednesday that the board will reconvene mediated negotiations.

Gibbons advised John M. Conley, TWU's international administrative vice president, that the

NMB will treat contract negotiations at American and American Eagle, its regional airline affiliate, separately, Conley said.

"In other words, the board could elect to release or deny either party at their discretion," he said.

American spokeswoman Missy Latham said the company is pleased that the NMB is reconvening mediated negotiations.

"The company continues to believe that a negotiated agreement is the best solution for our employees, our company and those who depend on us every day -- and that there is a significant risk that any other option could lead to an unsatisfactory outcome for both our APFA and TWU-represented employees and for American," Latham said. "The company is committed to reaching new contracts with the unions that provide competitive pay and benefits and a good career for our employees and yet allow the airline to compete successfully.

"The company negotiating teams remain focused and are ready to get back to work at the table once the NMB sets dates to reconvene the parties."

Representatives of the TWU, APFA and American's Allied Pilots Association are critical of the slow pace of negotiations on wages and benefits.

The unions contrast the present pace with the two-week period in 2003 when they agreed to $1.62 billion a year in wage and benefits concessions to keep American out of bankruptcy.

American's parent, AMR Corp., has lost $3.6 billion in the last two years.

Airline industry bargaining is governed by the Railway Labor Act, which prohibits strikes and lockouts unless the NMB declares an impasse.

D.R. Stewart 581-8451

don.stewart@tulsaworld.com

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