Northwest pilots to vote on authorizing strike

/ Source: The Associated Press

Northwest Airlines Corp. pilots will begin voting Monday on whether to authorize a strike, a union official said Friday.

Strike ballots will be counted Feb. 28, following a 15-day voting period, said Capt. Mark McClain, chairman of the NWA chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association.

Northwest has petitioned a bankruptcy court to do away with contracts made with its pilots and flight attendants. The hearings ended last week, but the judge has yet to issue a ruling. If the majority of Northwest pilots authorizes a strike, the union leadership will have the authority to call a strike if the company unilaterally implements terms and conditions on pilots.

"Northwest pilots understand the serious nature of a strike, but we will defend ourselves with all available 'self-help' options up to and including the complete withdrawal of pilot services from Northwest Airlines," McClain said.

Northwest said Friday it would seek an immediate injunction if the pilots try to go on strike.

"We do not believe that ALPA has the legal right to strike if the Bankruptcy Court judge allows the airline to abrogate its current contract with that union," the company said in a prepared statement.

Northwest, which is Michigan's largest passenger air carrier and has a hub at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, filed for bankruptcy protection in September because of rising fuel costs and competition from low cost carriers. The Eagan-based carrier wants to cut $2.5 billion in costs, including $1.4 billion in labor expenses, to emerge from bankruptcy.

ALPA represents about 5,000 active Northwest pilots and 700 furloughed pilots.