updated 6/7/2005 11:41:23 AM ET 2005-06-07T15:41:23

Northwest Airlines Corp. is recruiting replacement flight attendants in case of a labor dispute or strike, even as negotiations with its flight attendants' union continue.

A job listing on Monster.com encourages candidates to apply by June 12 for a training program to become a certified flight attendant with the airline. The job description, placed by recruitment firm Spherion Corp., says people "who successfully complete the Flight Attendant training may be offered employment in the event of a labor dispute or strike."

Bob Krabbe, an official with the Professional Flight Attendants Association, said Monday that Northwest is engaging in a campaign of "intimidation and fear" by recruiting replacement flight attendants.

"What perplexes PFAA is that the company wants us to bargain with them, wants us to have trust in them, yet they are making secret contingency plans to train thousands of flight attendants," he said.

Northwest, which is negotiating contracts with three of its four largest unions, is demanding $1.1 billion in annual labor savings. Meanwhile, a steady stream of stock sales by Northwest Chairman Gary Wilson has some employees worried that the airline is preparing to file for bankruptcy if it doesn't get what it sees as timely relief from its labor costs.

Northwest, in a statement, defended the recruitment of replacement workers.

"Northwest is aware of significant strike planning activity under way at several of its unions," the airline said Monday. "If one of its unions chooses to strike the carrier or engage in job actions with the intent of causing disruption at some point in the future, Northwest must be prepared to protect its operations."

Last month, Internet recruitment ads surfaced for replacement mechanics who were being offered $32 an hour, paid housing and a $2,000 bonus. The Eagan, Minn.-based airline denied it has added mechanics to its employee payroll, but companies have been recruiting mechanics who want to work for a major airline in the Twin Cities.

The flight attendants union was in mediated contract negotiations with Northwest on Monday in Detroit. Krabbe said the PFAA would notify its members about the replacement workers' development.

"The first thing we are going to do is tell our members that they should not be frightened by the company's attempts to scare them," he said.

Peter Fiske, a spokesman for the PFAA at Northwest, said it takes about six weeks to train a flight attendant in safety procedures, first aid and the operation of emergency equipment.

Many analysts say Northwest has the highest labor costs in the industry. Based on its huge pension obligations, large fuel costs and high labor costs, analysts have concluded that Northwest cannot sustain its current operations.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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