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Eastern Faced With Strike Threat : Flight Attendants Set Deadline After Talks Reach Impasse

February 27, 1986|ROBERT E. DALLOS | Times Staff Writer

MIAMI — Eastern Airlines' 6,200 flight attendants threatened Wednesday to strike anytime after midnight Friday, forcing a new crisis upon the troubled carrier.

Talks between the airline and the Transport Workers Union (TWU), which represents Eastern's flight attendants, reached an impasse late Tuesday, only hours after the two sides returned to the bargaining table. The talks had been renewed following the announcement early Monday that Texas Air Corp. had agreed to buy Eastern.

The union and the airline had announced a tentative agreement late Saturday night, but it was never signed. And there was disagreement between the two sides Wednesday on whether an agreement had actually been reached. Eastern insisted that there had been no final agreement, but the union said there had been a handshake on a pact.

The union charged Wednesday that, when talks had resumed Tuesday, Eastern came to the table with a drastically lower offer.

An Eastern spokesman said Wednesday: "We are continuing to negotiate faithfully and are optimistic that a satisfactory and equitable settlement will be reached and a strike averted." But John Kerrigan, a TWU official, said he sees no way of avoiding a strike.

Eastern Chairman Frank Borman had said at a news conference Tuesday that a strike by flight attendants was a "non-possibility."

If the flight attendants walk off their jobs and the airline is grounded as a result, Eastern will face difficulties with its lenders, who have given the airline until the end of this week to get new wage and benefits concessions from all three of its unions. If it is unable to do so, Eastern could technically be in default on $600 million of its $2.5-billion debt.

The Air Line Pilots Assn., which represents Eastern's pilots, signed a new pact with the airline last weekend. The airline's other union, the International Assn. of Machinists, has a contract that expires next year, but Eastern wants new talks with the aim of obtaining concessions.

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