Union Official: Northwest Seeks Layoffs

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Negotiators for striking Northwest Airlines mechanics on Friday weighed a demand from the carrier for roughly 3,500 union layoffs, up from the 2,000 in a proposal that prompted the strike.

Negotiators for both sides were holed up in a downtown hotel. Union contract coordinator Jeff Mathews said that after meeting separately in the morning, the sides were scheduled to meet face-to-face in the afternoon.

The airline told the union Thursday it wanted $203 million in labor savings, up 15 percent from the $176 million it sought in the previous round of contract talks, according to the union.

"We have not received those numbers in writing from the company yet," Mathews said.

Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch declined to comment on negotiations.

Northwest has said rising fuel prices were forcing it to seek even more concessions from all of its unions _ including flight attendants, pilots and groundworkers _ than the $1.1 billion it sought only last month.

Details of Northwest's new offer came from Ken Reed, president of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association local in Duluth, who said it was relayed to him by his local's representative at the talks.

Reed said Northwest is proposing to keep 1,020 mechanics. Before the strike _ in its 21st day Friday _ Northwest employed around 3,000 of the workers, who check airplanes for operational capability, according to the carrier's Web site.

Most of the rest of the union's 4,427 members are custodians and cleaners. Northwest said last week it has already permanently transferred the cleaning jobs to outside vendors,.

The airline has told the union it would begin hiring permanent replacements for the union members by Sept. 13 if a deal wasn't reached.

On Friday, AMFA assistant national director Steve MacFarlane said the airline was calling the new proposal its "last, best offer."

"As opposed to their old last, best offer," MacFarlane said. "Until you hear the word final, it really doesn't mean much."

Mechanic Steve Schaaf, 50, of Hastings, arrived to observe afternoon negotiations. With 22 1/2 years experience, he figured that he would keep his job _ but just barely.

"From what I hear, I probably won't lose it, but I'll probably end up in Detroit on nights, or some ungodly place," he said.

Shares of the carrier fell 11 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $3.41 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

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