Transportation Secretary Drew Lewis said yesterday he will not meet with president Robert E. Poli of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization even if the union officially ends its strike.
"The only people we will deal with are the people who are on the job working as air traffic controllers," Lewis said yesterday on "Face the Nation" (CBS, WDVM). "I will not meet with Mr. Poli. I will not meet with anybody that's been terminated."
Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration said yesterday that between 75 percent and 79 percent of scheduled flights were operating.
Mutual of Omaha reported that flight insurance sales were up 35 percent at O'Hare airport in Chicago and 25 percent at Los Angeles International.
Lewis' statement yesterday clarified his stand on resumption of talks with Poli, who pulled 13,000 of PATCO's 15,000 members out on strike last Monday.
Lewis said then that he would not negotiate with Poli while PATCO members were on strike. On Wednesday President Reagan ordered the dismissal of the 12,000 strikers who refused to meet his return-to-work deadline.
Once the firings started, Lewis contended that the strike was over and ordered the hiring of replacements for the dismissed controllers.
That left Lewis with a problem: What if Poli ended the strike after the firings? Would the administration return to the bargaining table?
Lewis' answer yesterday was unequivocal and consistent with the administration's contention that because there is no longer a strike, there is nothing to negotiate -- not with Poli, anyway.
Poli, who has been calling for talks since the strike began, said yesterday: "It is the responsibility of high government officials to lessen the impact of negative events on the American people and the economy, and not to prolong them through inflammatory rhetoric."
The union chief asked for amnesty for the striking PATCO members, the first time he has done so publicly.
Lewis said no amnesty would be granted, and he added: " . . . There's a question now whether PATCO even exists; because with 12,000 people gone, we're likely to have more non-union members in the bargaining unit than we do union members. . . presently working."
Lewis also said he is pushing for PATCO's decertification, stripping the union of its representational rights, because "we would like to have some group that's responsible with whom we can deal."
The Federal Labor Relation Authority is to hold hearings today on the PATCO case at the U.S. Courthouse here. If PATCO is decertified, Lewis said, it will be up to the new and nonstriking controllers to decide whether they want the union back.