Judge Extends Northwest Airlines Labor Talks Again

The judge overseeing Northwest Airlines Corp.'s bankruptcy case granted another extension on Friday of a deadline for a pay-cut deal between the carrier and its pilots and flight attendants.

Judge Allan Gropper, who is hearing the case in New York City, had given the unions and the airline until Friday to make a deal. The new deadline is Wednesday.

Gropper's one-paragraph order said the unions and the airline have met in good-faith negotiations, and that all sides agreed to extend the deadline until Wednesday.

Both sides reported progress but talks had not wrapped up when they met with Gropper on Friday. He is considering Northwest's request to reject its contracts with the two unions. That would leave Northwest free to impose its pay cuts and work rule changes. Both unions have warned they may strike if that happens.

Pilot voting on whether to authorize a strike wraps up on Tuesday. The flight attendant strike vote ends on March 6.

Airline and union representatives met with the judge in his courtroom before breaking into smaller groups to talk about the status of negotiations. Each party in the negotiations is meeting with the judge separately within the courthouse in lower Manhattan.

Gropper has been pushing the negotiators to make a deal rather than have him rule on the matter.

Northwest spokesman Bill Mellon did not give details about the initial meeting in Gropper's courtroom, and declined to say if Gropper was acting as a mediator.

The company issued a statement saying that "while it appreciates Judge Gropper giving the parties additional time to continue to reach consensual agreements, achieving the needed labor cost savings as soon as possible is critical to the success of Northwest Airlines, which is losing $3 million to $4 million per day."

Northwest, which filed for bankruptcy protection in September, has said it needs $1.4 billion in annual savings from its labor unions to compete with low-cost carriers and absorb rising fuel costs. Northwest is based near Minneapolis in Eagan, Minn.