The flight attendants union at Northwest Airlines Inc. said it is willing to agree to up to 25% pay cuts during the next few months to postpone a bankruptcy court hearing that could lead a federal judge to terminate the airline's union contracts.
The Professional Flight Attendants Association said it would give Northwest more than half the $195 million in concessions right away to give the two sides until mid-January to negotiate a long-term agreement.
The Air Line Pilots Association is in similar talks with the company.
The aim of a short-term deal is to show U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Allan L. Gropper that the union is willing to work with the company, said Peter Fiske, a member of the PFAA's executive board.
The airline confirmed Wednesday that by mid-November it hopes to reach short-term deals that offer about $840 million in concessions, or 60% of the $1.4 billion in annual givebacks it seeks from its unions.
"Sixty percent temporarily is better than the judge coming along and imposing 100% of the $195 million permanently," Fiske said.
Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest filed for bankruptcy Sept. 14, citing soaring fuel prices, industry-high labor costs and low-cost competition. Northwest carries more than 60% of passengers who start their trips at Detroit Metro Airport.
Talks between Northwest and six of its unions have intensified since Oct. 12, when Northwest filed court papers in New York seeking sweeping authority to set new wages, benefits and work rules for the airline's roughly 29,000 union workers.
Northwest wants its unions to give up $1.4 billion annually, including their acceptance of wage cuts that range from 5% to 30%.
For the flight attendants, that would mean cutting wages by as much as 25% and eliminating other forms of income such as extra pay for working international flights, the PFAA told its members in a posting on its Web site Tuesday.
Hourly wages for flight attendants top out at $49.10. The union's nearly 10,000 flight attendants would not vote on any short-term agreement, Fiske said.
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A short-term agreement would give the two sides more time to negotiate a long-term deal outside of bankruptcy court.
A bankruptcy court on Tuesday approved nearly $550 million in concessions between Northwest Airlines Corp. and two of its unions representing pilots, baggage handlers and ground workers.
Northwest Airlines Corp. flight attendants would accept temporary pay cuts worth roughly $117 million to buy time to reach a permanent agreement.