- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 11, 2005

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Talks between Northwest Airlines Corp. and its striking mechanics ended early yesterday with no agreement and no clear plans to continue negotiations, officials said.

Union negotiators “are returning to their homes, and we do not have an agreement,” said spokesman Jeff Mathews.

“Additional talks for today are not scheduled,” said Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch.

Northwest is seeking $1.1 billion in annual labor cost savings and has said rising fuel prices mean it probably will raise that target. The company is in talks with all its workers.

A spokesman for the Northwest mechanics said Saturday that he doubts a deal will be reached anytime soon to end the three-week walkout.

“I think it would be a miracle for us to reach an agreement during this round of bargaining,” said Steve MacFarlane, assistant national director of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association.

The union has said Northwest wants to keep only 1,080 mechanics’ jobs and eliminate aircraft cleaner and custodian positions represented by the union. That makes for about 3,350 layoffs — up from the 2,000 Northwest sought before the strike.

Northwest said its proposal would save the company $203 million a year, up from the $176 million it sought before the strike began Aug. 20. The union made its own proposal to Northwest and had been waiting for a response. Mr. Mathews declined to give details.

Mr. MacFarlane said he expects the two sides to reach a deal eventually, even though striking workers may not like it.

“We all know that at some point an agreement must be reached. We also know that any tentative agreement is going to be extreme by any measure,” he told union members in a hot line message Saturday morning.

Northwest has said time is running out for it to avoid bankruptcy.

Oct. 16 is the last day before a new, more restrictive bankruptcy law takes effect, and Chief Executive Officer Doug Steenland has said the change is one factor in the company’s bankruptcy considerations.

Northwest has continued to fly through the strike.

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