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United Targets 36 Mechanics

August 22, 2000

CHICAGO (AP) _ United Airlines is seeking disciplinary action against the 36 mechanics the airline says participated in a sickout in Los Angeles on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.

The mechanics are on unpaid leave pending disciplinary hearings, company spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said Tuesday, denying a report that they were fired. They are among more than 100 mechanics who called in sick Aug. 13-14.

United, which blames its recent raft of cancellations and delays in part on labor actions by pilots and mechanics seeking new contracts, said the absences did not interfere with its efforts to transport delegates to the convention.

The world’s largest airline, under fire from passengers and public officials and seeking regulators’ approval for a merger with US Airways, continued negotiating with pilots’ leaders Tuesday in a Chicago suburb to try to end the turmoil.

United said 62 of the airline’s nearly 2,400 daily flights had been canceled Tuesday, following 95 cancellations on Monday. That’s short of United’s goal of operating at least 98 percent of its flights _ 48 cancellations or fewer _ but an improvement over the 209 daily cancellations it has averaged for August.

Pilots’ union spokesman Ken Bradley said Tuesday that both sides are still shooting for Labor Day as a target date for settlement but there were no new breakthroughs.

The current sticking point involves job security issues including the pilots’ destiny in the expanding role of smaller or regional jets industrywide. Once that is settled the two sides will take up pay, where the pilots are seeking an industry-leading contract.

Bradley said the airline only got serious about contract negotiations a month ago after a year and a half of intermittent talks that were ``a waste of everybody’s time.″

United declines to discuss details of the talks.

A mechanics’ spokesman did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

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