United Airlines Flight Attendants Threaten Disruptions if Pensions Axed

CHICAGO (AP) -- United Airlines' flight attendants union reiterated a threat Friday to stage intermittent strikes if the company proceeds with its plan to terminate traditional employee pensions.

The airline, a unit of Elk Grove Village, Illinois-based UAL Corp., agreed to a settlement plan last week with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. under which it would shift responsibility for the plans to the government pension agency, with a resulting reduction in many workers' pensions. A federal bankruptcy judge is expected to rule on the settlement following a May 10 hearing.

United says it will save $645 million (euro498 million) per year by dumping the four employee groups' plans in what would be the largest pension default in U.S. history. But the Association of Flight Attendants said management is just giving lip service to its obligation to consider the viability of each plan on its own merits.

''If they proceed with termination and destroy our retirement security, they leave us no alternative but to strike,'' said Greg Davidowitch, the AFA leader for United flight attendants. ''Current management is on a path that will lead to a labor relations meltdown that could destroy our airline. We must replace this management team if this airline is to survive.''

United spokeswoman Jean Medina said the company thinks the actions being proposed by the flight attendants would be illegal - something the union disputes. She said United would still consider any alternative pension plan that meets its business needs.