- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2002

CHICAGO (AP) The end to a long labor dispute between United Airlines and its mechanics could be in sight.
United Airlines has agreed to accept a presidential panel's recommendation of a 37 percent pay raise for the carrier's nearly 13,000 mechanics, who had threatened to strike.
United announced its decision late Tuesday after an emergency meeting.
The recommendation by a specially appointed Presidential Emergency Board, which said there was "no justification" in not giving mechanics their first raise since 1994, was a victory for the mechanics' union and put the onus on the carrier.
In a statement, United said that although "it has expressed serious reservations with detailed recommendations" in the board's report, it "has decided to accept the report's recommendations for contract settlement."
The United statement went on to say that a contract settlement with the machinists union is "an important step in implementing the company's financial-recovery plan.
"The company is committed to completing a financial-recovery plan that meets the needs of its customers, preserves jobs, and positions the company on the road to financial stability," the statement said.
United lost $2.84 billion in the first nine months of 2001 and is expected to report another hefty quarterly loss next week.
The beleaguered airline has laid off 20,000 employees and cut 30 percent of its daily flights, effective in October.
Joe Tiberi, a spokesman for the International Association of Machinists, said union members now must vote on whether to accept the recommendations of the presidential panel.
No date has been set for a vote, but Mr. Tiberi said the union expects to have it done within two weeks.
He said the union's negotiating committee is reviewing the recommendations.
Mr. Tiberi said the union also would be holding a strike-authorization vote in case members reject the panel's recommendations.
"If it passes, then there isn't any need to count the strike votes," Mr. Tiberi said.
The mechanics' contract came up for renewal in July 2000. Negotiations began in December 1999 and have been stalled despite federal mediation.
United, which has been losing $15 million a day in the wake of the September 11 attacks that cooled off air travel, has been focused on cutting costs. The airline has said for months that giving the mechanics a raise to end their labor standoff is not feasible.
A top United mechanic earns $25.60 an hour, but at American Airlines, the biggest carrier, top mechanics' pay is $34 an hour.
Under the recommendation, a senior United worker's hourly pay would rise immediately to $35.14 and increase to $37.54 by mid-2004, compared with the $39.27 the union is seeking.
The recommended pay plan marks the first time the panel, which President Bush appointed Dec. 20 to forestall a strike by United's 12,800 mechanics, has made a specific economic proposal.

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