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Northwest workers won't vote to end strike

Striking mechanics at bankrupt Northwest Airlines will not vote as expected on a company proposal to end their two-month walkout and allow some of them to go back to work, the union said late Thursday.
/ Source: Reuters

Striking mechanics at bankrupt Northwest Airlines will not vote as expected on a company proposal to end their two-month walkout and allow some of them to go back to work, the union said late Thursday.

The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association said the carrier inserted language in its “return-to-work” agreement at the last minute that violated the group’s constitution and cannot be approved.

“As a result, AMFA will remain on strike,” the union’s leadership said in a message to members that was posted on its Web site.

Jim Young, the union’s chief negotiator, said the ”bombshell” language intended to prevent retaliation against replacement workers at the workplace was arbitrary. Young said the company wants the right to decide for union members what constitutes a violation and penalty “if you are not working in absolute harmony” with replacement workers.

“This continues to be about busting our union,” Young said.

Julie Hagen Showers, Northwest’s vice president for labor relations and its chief negotiator, said in a letter to the union that the company has been open to “alternative means” to address the issue.

“It was our hope and belief that we were close to putting this dispute behind us,” Showers said. “I hope that we will be able to resolve any remaining issues and put documents in the hands of your members.”

Northwest voluntarily suspended hiring replacement workers last week but plans to resume that on Friday if the union has not begun to distribute the proposal to its members for ratification.

About 4,400 mechanics and related workers struck on Aug. 20 over concession proposals that preceded the company’s bankruptcy filing in September. At the time, union leaders rejected a proposal that would have dramatically cut wages but would have saved more than 2,700 jobs.

The company’s latest offer would have allowed 500 union members return to work, joining about 600 replacement workers who have been hired permanently. The airline contracted other work and slashed positions to save money.