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Northwest Reaches Deal With Striking Mechanics

October 10, 2006|From the Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Northwest Airlines Corp. and its striking mechanics announced a tentative agreement Monday that would end the 14-month-old strike but would give few workers their jobs back.

Approval by union members would end a walkout that began in August 2005 but long ago ceased to have any visible effect on the airline, which hired permanent replacements and outside contractors to replace the striking members of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Assn. Northwest said replacement workers would keep their jobs.

If the agreement is accepted, striking workers would be able to either resign or shift to layoff status and to bid on future openings. Northwest also said it would stop fighting state unemployment claims. In Minnesota, the state Court of Appeals had ruled that striking mechanics were entitled to unemployment benefits.

About 4,400 Northwest mechanics, cleaners and custodians walked out Aug. 20, 2005, instead of accepting pay cuts, work rule changes and layoffs. Northwest eventually hired 880 permanent replacements, including union members who crossed the picket line and former Northwest workers who had been furloughed before the strike.

At later negotiations, Northwest's offers became progressively less favorable for the strikers. In December, striking union members rejected Northwest's latest offer at the urging of union leaders.

Even though many strikers have gotten new jobs, the tentative agreement announced Monday includes some incentives to formally end the walkout rather than let it drag on.

The company offered as many as 10 weeks of severance pay for those who leave or as many as five weeks for those who switch to layoff status.

Returning strikers would work alongside those who crossed the picket line to replace them. The agreement includes anti-retaliation measures that bar the company and workers from discriminating against workers based on whether they struck or crossed the picket line.

Northwest mechanics would get yearly 1.5% pay raises beginning Jan. 1, the union said.

The union also said an agreement would halt Northwest's ability to keep changing the terms it imposed on its mechanics when the strike began.

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