Northwest Airlines: Machinists' Giveback Target is Now $190M

Northwest Airlines wants $190 million in annual wage and other givebacks from its baggage handlers, clerks, reservation agents and other ground workers.

That's up from the bankrupt Eagan, Minn.-based carrier's prior target of $107 million for that group of some 14,000 workers.

Northwest vice president for labor relations Julie Hagen Showers warned the workers' union the International Association of Machinists that it must cut a deal fast.

"If we cannot reach agreement in the short run, we will be forced to file a motion to reject the existing collective bargaining agreement," Hagen Showers wrote in a letter to union leaders Monday. She did not provide a specific deadline in the letter, however.

Northwest could ask the judge overseeing its bankruptcy reorganization to overturn the airline's contract with the IAM.

The airline's proposed contract includes 12.5 percent wage cuts for top-paid IAM members and widespread outsourcing of jobs outside of the airline's three hub airports of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Detroit and Memphis, Tenn. In addition, Northwest is looking to freeze pension benefits, cut vacation time and reduce health benefits.

While Northwest is in bankruptcy, it also wants IAM-represented workers to take an additional "temporary" 5 percent pay cut, documents on the union's Web site indicate.

How many jobs could go is unclear but could be "very dramatic," said Bobby De Pace, president of District 143 of the IAM.

"They're looking at maybe farming out all our work outside the hubs," De Pace said.

Northwest, which has lost about $3 billion on its operations since the start of 2001, is looking to extract $1.4 billion in annual wage and other givebacks from its employees. So, far, it only has $300 million in hand.