Mediators Check on Northwest and Flight Attendants

Federal mediators checked in with Northwest Airlines Corp. and its flight attendants on Monday, although no new talks are planned between the airline and the union that is threatening to strike on Aug. 25.

The National Mediation Board issued a statement saying it "remains active in helping the parties reach a consensual labor agreement."

However, no talks are scheduled with flight attendants, and the contact with mediators was just a status update by phone, according to Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch and union spokesman Ricky Thornton.

The National Mediation Board is a common fixture in airline labor talks, and it has been involved in earlier talks with flight attendants, too. Federal law generally bars airline strikes unless an NMB mediator releases both sides from negotiations.

But its role has not been as clear in Northwest's showdown with the Association of Flight Attendants, which threatened random, unannounced walkouts after Northwest imposed pay cuts and work rules on them with the permission of a bankruptcy judge.

Flight attendants had twice voted down negotiated agreements that would have saved Northwest $195 million (euro153.33 million) a year.

Northwest has said such a strike would be illegal, and it has asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper to block one. As of Monday, Gropper had not ruled.

Separately, Northwest planned to meet with striking mechanics on Tuesday, nearly a year after union workers walked out rather than accept major pay cuts and layoffs. Northwest hired replacement workers and sent work to outside contractors soon after the strike began Aug. 20. It has said any resolution with the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association would have no impact on the replacement workers it has hired.

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