Delta's Comair, Pilots to Resume Talks on Pay

Delta Air Lines Inc.'s bankrupt commuter unit will resume talks with its pilots union today over a proposal to cut pay and benefits by $15.8 million.

Comair Holdings and the Air Line Pilots Association agreed to meet in Cincinnati at the urging of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Adlai Hardin. Hardin, after four days of hearings in New York last week, asked the two sides to come to terms before he rules on Comair's request to impose the cuts.

"It's a very good thing to get together and see where we can bridge the gaps," union spokesman Paul Denke said Friday in a telephone interview.

The pilots union has threatened to strike if the cuts are imposed. Comair has said the cost savings are needed if it is to survive. They last met for negotiations on Nov. 16.

Comair spokeswoman Kate Marx said by phone that the two sides picked the date after Hardin urged them Thursday night to work out the labor agreement.

Hardin must rule on Comair's motion to impose the terms within 30 days of the start of the hearing, which was Nov. 27. Lawyers for both the airline and the pilots are scheduled to submit summation briefs to the judge by Dec. 11.

The proceedings followed the disintegration of a previous accord on cuts between the 1,500 Comair members of the Air Line Pilots Association and Cincinnati-based Comair.

The two sides have failed to reach agreement in part because of a dispute over the value of the latest proposals. David Krieger, a costing expert for the union, testified Thursday that the pilots' alternative plan would save the almost $16 million a year that Comair is seeking. The true value of Comair's Nov. 16 proposal is $22.5 million, he said.

The pilots voted in January to accept $17.3 million in annual compensation cuts, contingent on Comair reaching an agreement by Oct. 2 to reduce pay for flight attendants. The pilots association rejected the cuts after Comair failed to meet the deadline. The flight attendants ratified a new contract in November.

Comair, which filed for bankruptcy protection along with Atlanta-based Delta in September 2005, wants to reduce annual costs by $42 million and exit bankruptcy as a viable company. The pilots say the cuts aren't necessary now that Comair expects to post a $50 million profit for 2006.

Comair operates more than 800 flights a day to 103 cities in the United States, Canada and the Bahamas, according to court papers.



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