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American Airlines

American Airlines and union seek federal mediation

AP  Dec 15, 2008

American Airlines and the union that represents its baggage handlers said they will ask for a federal mediator after failing to reach a deal for a new contract.

Neither side said specifically why the talks broke down, but the union has been seeking to restore the wages and benefits its members had before making concessions in 2003 when American narrowly avoided bankruptcy.

American and the Transport Workers Union had set a deadline of midnight Saturday to see if they could make a deal on their own. American spokeswoman Tami McLallen said the airline and the union both signed a request for mediation beforehand, which the union was sending to the National Mediation Board on Monday.

"We do regret that we were unable to reach a tentative agreement," she said. "The TWU's expectations were beyond what we could offer and come to agreement on."

American's union contracts became amendable on May 1. Under federal labor law, airline contracts do not expire.

"The company didn't seem very serious about getting an agreement," said the union's Air Transport Division Director, John Conley, in a prepared statement.

He said that if analysts' projections for higher airline profits in 2009 come true, "you can bet the cost of a settlement will be greater."

The contract headed for mediation covers roughly 12,000 baggage handlers, as well as ground school instructors, simulator technicians, and storage clerks.

The TWU also represents American mechanics, dispatchers, and technical specialists under contracts that are negotiated separately.

The carrier is currently in mediation with the Allied Pilots Association. It is also in discussions with the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.

Unlike other industries where unions can strike or conduct job actions with relative ease, federal labor law keeps airline workers from conducting job actions until an impasse is declared by a mediator.

Shares of AMR Corp., parent of the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline, fell 45 cents, or 4.7 percent, to $9.08 in midday trading Monday.

American Airlines and union seek federal mediation
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