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Continental, Pilots Talk Contract

October 1, 1997

HOUSTON (AP) _ Continental Airlines and its pilots union worked to hammer out a contract Wednesday, but an immediate strike appeared unlikely.

The Independent Association of Continental Pilots had imposed an Oct. 1 deadline to reach an agreement with the airline.

IACP spokesman Jim Moody said talks were still continuing late Wednesday in Jacksonville, Fla., but no final offer from the Houston-based carrier was on the table. Continental said only that talks were continuing.

If it didn’t like the contract on the table by the end of the day, the union’s board of directors could recommend to issue strike ballots.

First, however, the union would have to be released from negotiations by the National Mediation Board. Chances for that are slim because the two sides only have been negotiating for five months and have been without a contract for 12 weeks.

The earliest the pilots could strike if a release were granted would be around Thanksgiving.

As of last week, the key outstanding issues in negotiations were pay and pension benefits.

The Independent Association of Continental Pilots, which represents 5,000 Continental and Continental Express pilots, claims its members’ average salary is 38 percent less than the average pay at other airlines.

Continental says its pilots make between 85 percent and 90 percent of industry average.

The carrier has said the union’s demands are unfair to other employees since they would double pilot expenses to more than $430 million the first year, wiping out nearly all the carrier’s profits.

Last week, Continental announced an across-the-board pay increase over the next three years for all Continental employees, including the company’s 5,100 pilots.

Their $500 million plan would bring pay for all 40,000 employees up to industry standards within the next 36 months.

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