Eastern Airlines Inc. said it is hoping to resume face-to-face negotiations this weekend with the Air Line Pilots Association, as a strike deadline of midnight Tuesday draws near.
A brief negotiating session in Miami Thursday produced no progress on the sharp divisions between the airline and the pilots' union, sources said. Federal mediators have been meeting with the two sides separately since then.
Yesterday, ALPA said its members had voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday if there is no agreement. "Over 96 percent of the pilots who voted opted for a strike," said Larry Schulte, chairman of ALPA's Eastern pilots' group. "If the company does not reach a fair and equitable agreement across the bargaining table with us, there will be a pilots' strike."
Eastern said it would shut the airline down if a strike occurs. Eastern Chairman Frank Borman said Thursday that a few "looney tunes in positions of responsibility" in the pilots' union were stopping Eastern from concluding an agreement with the pilots.
The airline is seeking large, permanent pay cuts from its pilots as part of a broad reduction in labor costs that Eastern says is essential to its survival. ALPA representatives, pointing to past concessions by the pilots, have said that labor costs are only a part of the problem. Borman and the rest of Eastern's management bear a heavy responsibility for the airline's plight, according to ALPA.
Last month, the pilots proposed a pay cut of 20 percent for three years, or about $100 million in savings annually, but would allow them to recoup them if Eastern's financial condition improves. Eastern, however, has said it must have permanent reductions to satisfy its creditors and to restore its financial health. The airline owes about $2.5 billion in long-term debt.