United Machinists Say Labor Pact ''Not Possible'' by Deadline


Nov 19, 2002
United Machinists Say Labor Pact ''Not Possible'' by Deadline
CHICAGO (AP) -- The union representing United Airlines ground workers said Friday it
won''t be possible to reach an agreement on labor concessions by the company''s
March 17 deadline for taking the contract issue to court.
After a week of negotiations with
the company in Chicago, leaders of
the Machinists'' union representing
baggage handlers and public
contact employees expressed hope
they will be able to work out a
tentative contract. But they told
their members such an agreement
isn''t imminent.
It is now apparent that achieving
new ratified contracts by that date
will not be possible, the union
officials said in a posting on the
Web site of Machinists'' union
District 141. Time is running out on
these complex negotiations and
difficult issues stand between us
and agreement.
The main issues are subcontracting, job security, part-time work status, reservations
and United''s proposal to create a separate low-cost carrier, according to the statement
signed by president Randy Canale and other district leaders.
United, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December, is on a tight
timetable to show financial progress or risk losing its emergency financing. It wants to
slash labor costs by $2.56 billion a year and says that on March 17 it will begin the
weeks-long legal process under which existing contracts could be voided and its own
terms imposed.
Both the airline and the unions have said they would continue negotiating past March
17 if no new pact is reached by then, since the contract-breaking process takes several
The other Machinists'' union, representing mechanics, commented only briefly on
negotiations in a Friday posting to its members. The District 141-M negotiators said
that United''s desire to outsource maintenance and inflict additional furloughs on our
membership remains a contentious issue.
United''s pilots and flight attendants unions both have publicly opposed United''s
proposal for a low-fares carrier as contract talks continue.
United spokesman Jeff Green declined to characterize the status of any contract
negotiations. He said the company remains committed to reaching a consensual
agreement on labor cost savings with all its unions.
On the machinists'' side, negotiations are shadowed by a rival union''s intensifying effort
to take over representation from the International Association of Machinists and
Aerospace Workers.
The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association filed a petition Thursday with the National
Mediation Board seeking to represent United''s mechanics and related employees -- an
action IAM officials said threatens to derail negotiations the same way an earlier bid did
in 2000.
AMFA''s intrusion at this critical stage introduces potentially fatal distraction into an
already precarious situation, said Robert Roach Jr., general vice president for the IAM.
They have placed the futures of the very employees that they propose to represent in
dire jeopardy.
He accused AMFA of taking steps to benefit Northwest Airlines, where the majority of its
members work.
A phone call to AMFA''s office in Minneapolis was not immediately returned.
The mediation board will determine if AMFA received enough signed cards from
workers to put the representation question to a vote.
Shares in United parent UAL Corp. rose 6 cents to close at $1.03 Friday on the New
York Stock Exchange.