August 21, 2005

Northwest keeps flying as strike enters second day

By Paul Thomasch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A strike by mechanics at Northwest
Airlines entered its second day on Sunday, but the carrier kept
flying without any major disruptions as it called in 1,500
temporary workers.

In the first U.S. airline strike since 2001, Aircraft
Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) workers walked off their
jobs at Northwest on Friday after failing to reach a new

"We had a normal operations day (Saturday) and expect
another one today," a Northwest spokeswoman said on Sunday,
typically one of the busiest travel days of the week.

The strike by the 4,400 mechanics and maintenance workers
has not been joined by other unions at Northwest, and the
carrier has been able to keep its planes flying with few

The spokeswoman said no further talks have been scheduled
between the AMFA and Northwest, which flies 177,000 passengers
daily and has hub airports in Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

The union has said the airline's best proposal would have
cut more than half the AMFA jobs and imposed hefty pay cuts for
remaining workers. The labor group said its final counter-offer
would have met the cost-cutting target and preserved jobs.

Other large carriers are also trying to cut costs in the
face of sky-high fuel prices and stiff competition from low
cost carriers. United Airlines and US Airways are both in
bankruptcy protection and, like Northwest, have asked their
employees for concessions.

For its part, Northwest is demanding workers accept wage
and job cuts to help it remove $1.1 billion in annual labor
costs to restructure and avert bankruptcy.

The AMFA strike began just after midnight EDT Friday (0400
GMT) at the end of a 30-day "cooling off" period. The two
parties were released from federal mediation in July, setting
the stage for the walkout.

Northwest has called on 1,500 temporary workers, and the
AMFA is betting the replacement workers will not have the skill
level of the striking mechanics and that flight delays and
cancellations will increase over coming days.