WASHINGTON — Trans World Airlines and union representatives for flight attendants who struck last week have agreed to return to the bargaining table Wednesday, government officials said Monday.
The National Mediation Board said that both sides have agreed to meet Wednesday morning in Philadelphia for the first time since the 6,000 attendants walked off their jobs shortly after a midnight Thursday deadline.
Also on Monday, U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs presided at a hearing in Kansas City, Mo., on TWA's request for a preliminary injunction to prevent non-striking machinists from honoring the flight attendants' picket lines. The airline threatened to shut down unless the machinists return to work.
Jerry Nichols, TWA senior vice president of ground operations, said it would take a year to contract out the work done by the machinists at the TWA overhaul base in Kansas City.
He said that the first aircraft due for overhaul is to arrive in Kansas City on Wednesday. Unless machinists return to work, he said, the plane will be grounded.
When asked during the hearing what TWA would do if the machinists continued to honor the flight attendants' picket lines, Nichols replied: "Close the airline. Sell it."
Ruling Due Today
Sachs recessed the hearing Monday and said he would rule this morning.
Neither TWA headquarters nor the International Assn. of Machinists had a count of how many of TWA's 10,000 unionized machinists were honoring the picket lines.
Wage Package at Issue
The issue that touched off the strike against the nation's fifth largest airline was a wage package calling for pay cuts and increased flying time for TWA's attendants.
TWA normally serves 63 U.S. airports and 23 foreign airports, officials said.
Although the two sides are close on the wage issue, a 15% cut or a 17% cut, Vicki Frankovich, president of the Independent Federation of Flight Attendants, said that there is still disagreement on the number of hours attendants will be required to spend in the air each month. The airline wants an increase and the union is opposed.
The strike has grounded close to half of TWA's normally scheduled 612 flights daily for the last four days.
On Monday, TWA added more flights to its schedule and resumed service to Athens, Greece, and Tel Aviv, Israel, according to a company spokesman. But spokesmen for the striking flight attendants' union disputed the company's methods of counting.
"Today, we're flying 343 flights, which is 56% of our regular schedule," Larry Hilliard, a TWA spokesman, said.
Barcelona, Spain, and Copenhagen, Denmark, remained without TWA service, he said.
Hilliard said that the airline expects to operate all its regularly scheduled flights by next week, using 1,750 newly hired flight attendants, along with 1,500 managers, ticket agents and reservation clerks who donned attendant uniforms. The flight attendants' union has accused TWA of inflating its numbers for both replacement workers and operating flights.