updated 12/6/2005 8:09:28 PM ET 2005-12-07T01:09:28

Delta Air Lines Inc. wants to retain its pilots and it plans to have a collective bargaining agreement in the future with its pilots, an executive with the bankrupt carrier said Tuesday.

"I am assuming we're still here because we still don't have an agreement," Judge Prudence Carter Beatty said at the start of the eighth day of hearings on Delta's request to do away with the pilot's current collective bargaining agreement.

Beatty has repeatedly pleaded with both sides to come to a middle ground.

Delta's chief labor relations executive Geraldine Carolan testified that "Delta is a company right now at grave financial risk. We have already reduced labor costs of all employee groups. We are asking pilots to pay their fair share."

Beatty cautioned Delta that the term "fair" irks the pilots because they agreed to salary cuts in 2004. "They (the pilots) made a big contribution last year. They don't believe the proposal is fair because of what they already gave."

Asked by an attorney representing Delta if she has heard that the airline would like to "be rid of" its pilots, Carolan said: "I have not."

Asked if she believes the airline's collective bargaining agreement will be in place for "many years to come," Carolan said "yes."

Delta has maintained it needs $325 million of wage reductions from its pilots as part of $3 billion in cost cuts in order to emerge from bankruptcy.

Carolan also testified about a recent contract with its dispatchers that allowed the airline to cut by 10 percent the pay of its top earners and by 9 percent the pay for all others. Top earners make roughly $70,000 a year, compared with $35,000 to $40,000 a year.

She said the airline has capped paid vacation to four weeks, down from six weeks, has eliminated one paid holiday and has cut pay for furloughed employees.

Bankruptcy law provides that on the 30th day after the debtor asks a court to end an agreement with its unionized employees is usually allowed to implement its requested changes if the court has not yet ruled.

Beatty has not indicated how this Dec. 16 deadline will impact Delta's case.

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