updated 8/27/2006 3:55:08 PM ET 2006-08-27T19:55:08

FedEx Express, operator of the world’s largest cargo airline, has reached a tentative agreement on a new contract with its pilots, the company announced Sunday.

FedEx Express, the largest division of Memphis-based FedEx Corp., and its 4,700 pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, had been negotiating since March 2004 but reached a stalemate last October, when the company asked the National Mediation Board to help.

Under the Railway Labor Act, a 1999 contract for FedEx pilots had remained in effect during negotiations.

“We at FedEx Express appreciate the time and effort both sides have put into reaching a resolution that is not only fair to our pilots and their families but also fair to the company and our other employees and shareowners,” FedEx Express President and CEO David J. Bronczek said in a statement.

Details of the proposed four-year contract were not announced. If approved by the Air Line Pilots Association FedEx Master Executive Council, the agreement will be subject to a vote by the pilots.

“We’re gratified that the collective bargaining process has produced solid contract improvements that acknowledge our pilot group’s contributions to FedEx, and we appreciate the company’s commitment to these negotiations,” said Capt. David Webb, chairman of the council.

The pilots had said their main contract concerns centered on job security, work rules, retirement benefits and health care.

The mediation board, when called in by one or both parties, takes over management of contract talks. Neither party can then engage in so-call “self-help” actions such as strikes or unilateral imposition of new work rules.

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