updated 8/3/2005 1:46:01 PM ET 2005-08-03T17:46:01

Talks broke off between Northwest Airlines Corp. and its mechanics on Wednesday, with mechanics saying the likelihood of a strike was increasing.

Mechanics can strike after 12:01 a.m. EDT on Aug. 20 if no deal is reached. Northwest, the nation’s fourth-largest airline, has vowed to keep flying.

“Clearly Northwest Airlines would prefer a strike over an agreement, and it looks like they’re probably going to get their wish,” said Steve MacFarlane, spokesman for the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association.

Mediated talks had resumed on Tuesday, but by Wednesday the union was accusing Northwest of refusing to budge from its demand for $176 million worth of cuts, including thousands of layoffs and a pay cut of about 25 percent, MacFarlane said.

Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said the company “made a number of significant offers to AMFA” including job protection for three-quarters of its workers and a profit-sharing plan. He said Northwest was willing to resume negotiations.

MacFarlane said the airline’s offers were hollow. Profit-sharing is meaningless at a money-losing company like Northwest, he said. And Northwest is only offering to preserve three-quarters of the union members jobs left after it lays off more than half of its current mechanics, MacFarlane said.

“Either way we lose. So we might as well take the strike and attempt to apply some leverage to Northwest and convince them that they really can’t do it without us,” MacFarlane said.

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