ROMULUS, Mich. -- Mechanics and cleaners at Northwest Airlines easily approved a contract proposal reached after more than four years of negotiations and a near-walkout, a union member confirmed Wednesday.
Eighty-two percent of union members voted to approve the contract via mail ballots; about 17 percent voted against it. KSTP-TV of St. Paul, Minn., first reported the contract results, and Jim Atkinson, a spokesman for the union local in Bloomington, Minn., confirmed the numbers. Turnout was 94 percent.
Leaders of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Organization had said they would sign the deal Friday if mechanics approved it.
Mechanics were poised to strike this spring and shut down the nation's fourth-largest airline before President Bush ordered a cooling-off period, saying he was concerned about a shutdown's effect on the national economy. Northwest offered the latest contract proposal before the period expired.
The contract makes Northwest's mechanics the industry's highest-paid, upping their pay by an average of 24.4 percent. The pay of cleaners and custodians, who make up a very small part of the union, would rise an average of 13 percent.
Mechanics will more than double their pension rate to $85 per month per year of service. For cleaners and custodians, the pension rate increases to $51, from $27.77.
"While we did accomplish some pretty important things, we also came up short in actually matching what this industry used to pay us 20 years ago," said Steve MacFarlane, president of the AMFA Local 33 in Bloomington, Minn., representing a little more than half of Northwest's 9,500 AMFA members. "I think the majority really initially felt disappointed."
In addition to wage improvements, the contract includes job protections MacFarlane called the industry's best, including caps on how much work Northwest can send out to third-party vendors.
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