Judge Dismisses Flight Attendant Complaint Against Northwest

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A federal judge on Friday threw out a complaint by flight attendants who said Northwest Airlines Corp. was improperly training their replacements in case they strike.

The Professional Flight Attendants Association union had claimed that Northwest was changing their contract and creating a security risk by training replacement workers who had not been promised a job.

The union said trainees usually are promised a job as long as they finish training. It wanted a temporary restraining order to stop the training, which began July 30.

U.S. District Court Judge David S. Doty ruled on Friday that the dispute was minor. Under federal labor law, that means it can be decided by an arbitrator.

''We are pleased that the federal district court agrees that this is a matter to be addressed under our collective bargaining agreement with the PFAA,'' Northwest said in a prepared statement. It said training of the flight attendants would continue.

PFAA spokesman Peter Fiske said the judge didn't reject the merits of the union's case, just the jurisdiction. He said the union would ask for an expedited hearing before the three-member panel that usually settles disputes with the airline. The panel includes one person from the union, one from the airline, and one who is neutral.

Northwest began training the flight attendants out of fear that PFAA flight attendants would refuse to cross a mechanic picket line.

Northwest's mechanics can strike after 12:01 a.m. EDT on Aug. 20 if they don't reach a deal with the airline. Northwest has proposed $176 million worth of cuts from mechanics, including a 25 percent pay cut. It also wants to lay off roughly 2,000 of AMFA's current 4,500 Northwest workers.

Talks are currently stalled.

Northwest shares rose 7 cents to $4.26 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.