Tentative Agreement Reached in USAir Strike
WASHINGTON (AP) _ USAir reached a tentative agreement today with a machinists union that went on strike Monday, causing the cancellations of hundreds of flights around the country.
The agreement is subject to ratification by the 8,300 members of the International Association of Machinists.
National Mediation Board Chairman Kimberley Madigan said the tentative agreement between USAir and the Machinists was reached at 11:30 a.m. after a 22-hour negotiating session.
The union was not immediately available for comment, but USAir said in a statement that the Machinists leadership ″has indicated that it will recommend ratification.″
The airline said that if the new contract is ratified, union leaders expect their members to return to work on Sunday.
Seth E. Schofield, USAir’s chief executive officer, described the tentative agreement as ″fair and equitable.″
″We achieved our goal of reducing costs for both the near and long term,″ Schofield said.
″USAir will be at full pre-strike service levels at all of the 124 airports on our domestic and international route network on Monday morning,″ Schofield said.
Details of the agreement were not immediately released.
The two sides started meeting separately with mediators at about noon Wednesday.
USAir has been flying 60 percent of its normal service, not counting its Northeastern shuttle and regional commuter line, which were not affected by the strike. The airline added about 120 flights Tuesday and said it plans to add more flights soon.
USAir, trying to deal with hundreds of millions of dollars in recent losses, asked its employees late last year to accept a package of wage and benefit reductions that it said could save a total $400 million in 1992.
The Airline Pilots Association, representing Usair’s pilots, agreed to accept such a package in June and the pilots crossed the picket lines to keep about 60 percent of USAir normal schedule in operation.
But the Machinists, representing the airline’s mechanics and ground crew workers, said they were being asked to accept deeper cuts than other categories of employees.
They said the airline was attempting to replace some union members with less skilled non-union help for certain tasks such as aircraft de-icing.
Industry analysts had wondered how long USAir could hold out.
As of June 30, the airline had $216 million in cash on hand and an additional $686 million it could borrow quickly, said Standard & Poor’s Corp. airline analyst Betsy Snyder. Since then, massive fare cutting and expected losses from late summer have probably dwindled that amount, but it was unclear how long the bankroll would last.
USAir was paying pilots their regular salary, even if their flights were canceled by the strike, the Air Line Pilots Association said. The airline was also reimbursing rival airlines for accepting tickets from stranded USAir passengers.
Flight attendants had been due to seek court permission today to join the 8,300 Machinists in a sympathy strike, but delayed seeking a hearing until Oct. 19.
The flight attendants’ union had called for a sympathy strike Monday, shortly after the Machinists walked out. At some airports about half the flight attendants stayed off the job and at others about 80 percent to 90 percent stayed away before they were ordered back Monday night, said David Melancon, spokesman for the Association of Flight Attendants.
USAir spokeswoman Nancy Vaughn said a ″handful″ of Machinists members had returned to work Tuesday and Wednesday, but did not know how many or at which airports. Jim Conley, a union spokesman, denied Machinists were crossing picket lines.