updated 2/16/2006 3:00:14 PM ET 2006-02-16T20:00:14

The bankruptcy judge overseeing Northwest Airlines Corp.’s financial reorganization efforts on Thursday gave the carrier and its unions more time to come up with a consensual agreement over their hotly debated collective bargaining agreements.

Judge Allan Gropper, who is overseeing the case, had until today to come up with a decision regarding the carrier’s request to do away with collective bargaining agreements with its employees. He pushed back that decision until the close of business on Feb. 24, allowing the carrier and its unions more time to negotiate.

Northwest, which filed for bankruptcy protection in September, has maintained it needs the cost cuts to help it emerge from bankruptcy protection. It said it needs to cut costs to compete better with low cost carriers and absorb rising fuel costs.

In January, the airline asked the judge to approve its request to do away with collective bargaining agreements made with its unions. The unions had hinted they will strike if the agreements are voided.

According to the order issued by Gropper, representatives of the pilots union, the carrier’s flight attendants union and Northwest’s attorneys agreed to extend the period in which both sides have to come to an agreement.

Attorneys met with the judge in his chambers for nearly three hours on Thursday before he granted the extension.

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