MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Northwest Airlines has stepped up its legal fight against its mechanics by pressing for more than $2.5 million in union dues as compensation for an alleged work slowdown.
In documents filed Monday in U.S. District Court, just two days before the airline was scheduled to return to the bargaining table with the union for contract talks in Washington, Northwest alleged that the union is to blame for a continuation of maintenance disruptions that began in November.
"That's totally laughable," said Steve MacFarlane, president of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association Local 33. "Our guys are working as hard as they can."
The carrier cited severe spikes throughout February in the number of Northwest planes that were out of service due to maintenance issues. As a result, there was a fivefold rise in flight cancellations at the end of the month, Northwest said.
"Maintenance operations are not performing well and substandard performance has persisted since Thanksgiving week," Northwest attorney Tim Thornton wrote in asking Judge David Doty for a contempt-of-court sanction.
Northwest asked for "a monetary sanction equal to half of AMFA's annual Northwest" collection of union dues from its 10,000 mechanics, cleaners and custodians. The company estimated the annual dues income at more than $5 million. Doty did not immediately schedule a hearing and he did not issue any new decision in the case, which opened in November after talks between Northwest and AMFA began to break down.
Doty initially ordered both sides to obey the Railway Labor Act, which prohibits job actions and requires managers and workers to maintain the "status quo" in the workplace until a strike or lockout is permitted.
Following Doty's initial restraining order, Northwest alleged that AMFA was in contempt of it. Doty had not ruled on that allegation.
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