Northwest Airlines Corp. flight attendants would accept temporary pay cuts worth roughly $117 million to buy time to reach a permanent agreement, their union said on Wednesday, and the airline said it will try to reach temporary deals with two other unions as well.
A Nov. 16 bankruptcy court hearing is planned on Northwest's request to cancel its union contracts. The airline's larger unions have said that's not enough time to negotiate permanent cuts.
Northwest spokesman Bill Mellon said the nation's fourth-largest airline is hopeful it can reach interim agreements with pilots, flight attendants and ground workers before Nov. 16. The airline said in a statement that it wants temporary cuts worth 60 percent of its $1.4 billion labor savings goal to be in place by mid-November before it will agree to push back the Nov. 16 hearing.
The Professional Flight Attendants Association said it was willing to make such a deal, which would amount to $117 million of the $195 million Northwest wants.
Details were still being worked out, but the package might include pay cuts of 20 percent to 25 percent, according to a message PFAA posted on its Web site late Tuesday. Because they would expire after three months, the cuts are not subject to a membership vote, the message said.
The proposal is "pure and brutal, and is designed to impress upon the bankruptcy court our acknowledgment of the drastic situation Northwest Airlines faces," the message said.
"We recognize it's painful and devastating to our members, and couldn't come at a more worse time, however we do not want our future in the hands of the bankruptcy court," said PFAA spokesman Peter Fiske.
Northwest filed for bankruptcy protection on Sept. 14, and it had been seeking concessions from its workers long before that.
Pilots have also said they would accept temporary cuts so they can delay the Nov. 16 hearing.
Ground workers represented by the International Association of Machinists are in talks with Northwest. But IAM District 143 President Bobby De Pace said Northwest has not asked them for temporary pay cuts in exchange for postponing the Nov. 16 hearing.
Northwest has said it has the highest labor costs in the industry.
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