updated 5/25/2005 6:33:05 PM ET 2005-05-25T22:33:05

Northwest Airlines said its talks with mechanics are at an impasse and asked to be released from negotiations, the mechanics’ union said Wednesday. If the mediator agrees, the next step would be arbitration or a possible strike.

Also Wednesday, the flight attendants union said Northwest will recall all 691 of its laid-off members over the summer.

Northwest and the mechanics have been negotiating since October, and a mediator has been involved since the beginning of this year.

The mechanics have until June 8 to respond to Northwest’s request to release them from mediation. Arbitration would be next, but either side can refuse. That would prompt a 30-day cooling-off period. After that, the mechanics could strike.

Mechanics have not decided whether they want arbitration, said Jeff Mathews, contract coordinator and negotiations spokesman for the Aircraft Fraternal Mechanics Association.

Faced with massive losses — $458 million in the last quarter alone — Eagan-based Northwest has been seeking to cut mechanics pay by around 25 percent and lay off nearly half of them. Northwest pilots agreed to concessions last fall, but its other unions have resisted.

“AMFA remains unwilling to not only agree to any single meaningful labor cost savings proposal, but also refuses to acknowledge that such labor cost savings are necessary or appropriate,” Northwest Vice President for Labor Relations Julie Hagen Showers wrote to the National Mediation Board.

Mathews said Northwest is moving too fast. AMFA resisted Northwest’s requests to open negotiations early, instead waiting until the law required them to go to the bargaining table.

“They’ve been extremely impatient, and they don’t want to allow us even minimal time to consider proposals,” Mathews said. He said Northwest dragged previous negotiations out for years.

Negotiations with the flight attendants have also been tense. Professional Flight Attendants Association president Guy Meek said he believes Northwest is only recalling its members because it wants to “cover any delays that may arise from labor problems.”

Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said the recall is to cover anticipated staffing needs in the second half of the year.

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