Machinists to vote on settlement proposal with Northwest Airlines

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On the eve of Bankruptcy Court proceedings that could result in the nullification of Northwest Airlines’ union contracts, Machinists District 143 has agreed to submit a settlement proposal to the membership, union leaders announced.

The decision means any court action on the Machinists’ contract will be delayed, said District 143, which represents 14,500 ground workers.

Late Friday evening, District 143 “reached an understanding with the company whereby we will present Northwest’s contract settlement proposal to the membership for your consideration,” the union Negotiating Committee said in a statement to union members.

“Your Negotiating Committee was able to convince Northwest to move off of some of their initial proposals, and many of your committee’s ideas are contained in the company’s settlement proposal.

“Complete details of Northwest’s proposal and a voting schedule will be available in the next few days. IAM members will have ample time to review the terms and have questions answered before casting their votes.

“The Section 1113(c) trial to reject labor contracts for IAM members, Flight Attendants and Pilots will begin January 17, 2006. The IAM and Northwest will ask the judge to postpone the IAM’s portion of the trial until the ratification results are known.”

The Negotiating Committee is heading by Robert DePace, president and directing general chairman of District 143.

On Tuesday, a trial begins in bankruptcy court in New York in which Judge Allan Gropper will decide whether to allow Northwest to “abrogate” its union contracts, allowing the airline to impose whatever economic conditions and work rules it wants.

As negotiations continued over the past week, unions began making strike plans.

The Master Executive Council of the Airline Pilots Association stated Jan. 7 that Northwest’s current outsourcing and job security proposals ‘are absolutely unacceptable.” If the bankruptcy court rips up the contract “and the company imposes terms and conditions which include these proposals, the company should expect a strike by the Northwest pilot group,” it said.

Flight attendants are “ready for whatever we need to do,” said Karen Schultz, communications officer for the Professional Flight Attendants Association. If negotiators don’t reach a tentative agreement, she said, members will be asked to take a strike vote.

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