MINNEAPOLIS -- The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association filed a lawsuit against Northwest Airlines Friday, alleging bad faith bargaining in their contract negotiations and safety issues which Northwest said are unfounded.
The federal court lawsuit came the day after the National Mediation Board recessed contract negotiations between Northwest and its mechanics and cleaners until further notice, indicating the union had not presented a serious wage proposal.
O.V. Delle-Femine, the union's national director, said the NMB action "smacks of favoritism toward NWA."
"A recess only enhances labor unrest and dissension amongst the mechanics and related personnel," Delle-Femine said.
Northwest officials said they were disappointed by the board's action.
"We had hoped that we would be able to quickly conclude a new agreement for our mechanics, cleaners and custodians," Richard Anderson, chief operating officer, and Douglas Steenland, chief corporate officer, said in a letter to employees.
Northwest also issued a statement calling the AMFA lawsuit "nothing more than part of its negotiating strategy to divert attention away from its unrealistic positions. The claims raised in the AMFA complaint are unfounded; they have been raised with the company and been conclusively found to be false."
AMFA, which represents 9,500 members who have been seeking a new contract for more than four years, said it has reduced its initial proposal for a $3.16 billion raise over three years by $46.1 million.
Northwest said the two sides, which reached a tentative agreement on nonfinancial contract language on Sept. 1 after 10 months of negotiations, remain more than $1 billion apart on an annual basis and nearly $6 billion apart over the three years proposed by the union.
"Northwest, by way of reference, has never earned more than $606 million in any year," the company said.
At the time the recess was called, Northwest said AMFA's proposal included:
--A 114 percent date of signing pay increase for the average mechanic ($56.30 per hour/$117,000 per year).
--A 150 percent increase in pension benefits for mechanics ($100.00 per month, per year of service as a minimum).
--Comprehensive medical, dental, disability, vision and life insurance coverage that would, with some minor exceptions, be 100 percent company paid.
--Full retroactive application of all proposed date of signing pay increases that would cost Northwest approximately $2.2 billion (on average, in excess of $200,000 per AMFA represented employee.)
Northwest said its current offer, made Oct. 31, includes:
--An increase in average hourly all-in pay rates of 14.3 percent for mechanics on date of signing, producing an average hourly all-in wage rate of $30 per hour at date of signing.
--A 75 percent increase in pension benefit accrual from the current rate of $40 to $70 per month, per year of service for mechanics.
--Insurance enhancements consistent with those bargained for by the unions representing other Northwest employees that includes industry leading health care benefits.
Senior mediator Larry Gibbons told the AMFA negotiators that Northwest's last wage offer was an industry leading contract and said the union should contact the mediation board when it was ready to resume negotiations. Under the Railway Labor Act, the National Mediation Board would have to declare negotiations at an impasse to trigger a 30-day cooling off period.
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