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Merkel meets with union leaders over debt crisis

BERLIN | German Chancellor Angela Merkel met union leaders from across Europe on Thursday to discuss the eurozone debt crisis - a meeting they said was a welcome gesture but underlined differences over the austerity policies Mrs. Merkel has favored.

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, has stressed that its partners in the eurozone must get their public finances in order and has championed labor market reforms. That approach has led to big spending cuts in struggling countries and has been met by strikes.

“It was important that these talks took place at all,” Michael Sommer, Germany’s top union official, told reporters after the meeting. “From my point of view, it was a necessary piece of confidence-building, and more must follow.”

He said that “nothing went unsaid” and the two sides agreed that more needs to be done to use existing European Union funds to help revive struggling countries.

Spanish union officials said they were glad the meeting took place, but stressed their position that labor-market reforms launched by Spain’s new government - and enthusiastically welcomed by Mrs. Merkel - won’t help dent the country’s unemployment, which is the eurozone’s highest.


American Airlines aims to cancel labor contracts

NEW YORK | An attorney representing American Airlines says that if the company can’t reach cost-cutting deals with labor unions, it will ask a federal bankruptcy judge to throw out union contracts.

The company will seek to void several collective-bargaining agreements that have been under intense negotiations since American and parent AMR Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection Nov. 29.

Attorney Harvey Miller said Thursday that both the company and the unions have negotiated in good faith, but he doesn’t expect American Airlines parent company AMR Corp. and the unions to reach consensus.

Unions for pilots, flight attendants and ground workers have been expecting just such a move.


Volkswagen to add 800 jobs at Passat plant

CHATTANOOGA | Volkswagen will add 800 new jobs at its Chattanooga, Tenn., plant to boost production of the Passat sedan.

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