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Northwest Apologizes for Advice to Workers

August 17, 2006|From Bloomberg News

Northwest Airlines Corp. is apologizing to workers offended by company suggestions on how to save money that included buying jewelry at pawnshops, getting auto parts at junkyards and taking shorter showers.

The list, titled "101 Ways to Save Money," was part of a booklet for employees being laid off as Northwest reorganizes under bankruptcy protection. The Eagan, Minn.-based carrier gave out 60 of the booklets before it began getting complaints, and it cut the list from remaining copies, spokesman Roman Blahoski said Wednesday.

"This is disgraceful that somebody at Northwest Airlines would send this out to a long-term employee facing having no job, telling them to do certain things that are very degrading," said Robert Roach Jr., a spokesman for the International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Northwest, the fifth-largest U.S. airline, is reducing pay and benefits and shedding jobs as it trims labor spending by $1.4 billion annually to exit bankruptcy protection as soon as 2007. The job cuts include 1,000 machinists as well as members of other unions.

"We sincerely apologize to our employees for any offense this list caused them," said Crystal Knotek, senior vice president for ground operations. "We have taken appropriate action with our managers and vendors to ensure that all materials are properly reviewed in the future."

The 165-page booklet was created for Northwest by NEAS, an employee-assistance company based in Waukesha, Wis. A spokeswoman for NEAS referred calls to the airline.

Part of the booklet dealt with coping with job loss, options for job transfers within Northwest and relocation advice, Northwest said.

Suggestions on the money-saving idea list included giving homemade cards and gifts, asking doctors for prescription drug samples, borrowing a dress for "a big night out" and giving children hand-me-down toys and clothes.

"Don't be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash" was one idea on the list.

The machinists union is sending a letter of protest to Northwest Chief Executive Doug Steenland, Roach said.

The airline also is seeking $195 million in wage and benefit cuts from its flight attendants, who have said they will begin a series of unannounced, random work stoppages as soon as Aug. 25.

Northwest has asked a federal bankruptcy judge to block the attendants union from striking.

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