- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2006

ATLANTA (AP) — Delta Air Lines Inc. pilots, angered by management’s effort to throw out their contract and impose deep pay cuts, voted by a wide margin to authorize a strike, union leaders said yesterday.

The 94.7 percent vote in favor of authorizing a strike gives union leaders the authority to set a strike date. They gave no indication when they might act.

The results were announced in a memo to pilots from the chairman of the union’s executive committee, Lee Moak, and first reported by the Associated Press.

An arbitration panel must decide by April 15 whether to void the pilots’ contract. The union has said it will strike if its contract is rejected.

The nation’s third-largest carrier, which is operating under bankruptcy protection, has said a strike would put it out of business.

Any strike likely would prompt a court challenge by the company, which almost certainly would seek a restraining order. Mr. Moak said the union will “do what is legal.”

Mr. Moak said that during a special meeting to be held today he will ask union leaders to give him sole authority to set a strike date.

He said the union remains open to negotiations, but he insisted the company hasn’t been willing to compromise.

Atlanta-based Delta sought approval to reject its contract with its 5,930 pilots so it can impose up to $325 million in long-term pay and benefit cuts, which would include a wage reduction of at least 18 percent.

Delta’s pilots previously agreed to $1 billion in annual concessions, including a 32.5 percent wage cut, in a five-year deal in 2004. But Delta, which has imposed pay cuts on other employees, said it needs more from its pilots after filing for bankruptcy protection in September.

The company says the average earnings of pilots last year who worked the full year was more than $157,000. The union says line pilots made on average $151,000 last year. Both the union figure and company figure exclude management pilots, though the union figure also excludes instructor pilots and certain other pilots.


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