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Old May 26, 01, 10:41 am
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The National Mediation Board, which oversees labor relations in the airline and railroad industries, on May 23 offered binding arbitration to both management and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. Management accepted the offer, but if the APFA rejects the offer, the NMB would declare a 30-day cooling-off period, after which the flight attendants could go on strike without a contract agreement. The APFA membership has already authorized a strike. While it is rare for unions to accept binding arbitration, it is still possible the two sides could reach an agreement during the cooling off period. President Bush would also be authorized to order the flight attendants to stay on the job while a presidential emergency board considers the matter once the cooling off period expires.

The airline's contract with Allied Pilots Association, which represents its pilots, becomes open for negotiation of a new deal later this summer.

"Not by any means is it all behind us," said Ray Neidl, analyst with ABN Amro. "It's going to be a constant spiral."

He said the talks that worry him the most involve pilots at American Airlines, a unit of AMR Corp. (AMR: Research, Estimates), which could start in August.

"They're going to want to top both Delta and United contracts and American needs relief over use of regional jets," Neidl said.

But before American even gets to that contract, they face a possible strike by its flight attendants, who are members of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.
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