MINNEAPOLIS, FEB. 27 -- Contract talks between Northwest Airlines and the Teamsters union broke off early today and the union declared a strike by 6,500 flight attendants, but no picket lines materialized and a Teamsters spokesman later said there was no walkout.
Negotiators for both sides met again later in the day to discuss the company's latest offer, Teamsters spokesman Jeff Musto said at the union's strike control headquarters.
The union had threatened to go on strike at 11:01 p.m. local time Friday, when the flight attendants' old contract expired, but the talks continued past the deadline.
The confusion began shortly before 9 a.m. when William Genoese, director of the airline division for the Teamsters international, broke off talks after a 22-hour session and told reporters, "We are declaring a strike."
But no pickets or strike-related activity was observed through the day, and at about 5:15 p.m., Musto said that as far as he was concerned, there was no strike and no pickets had been dispatched.
He said as far as he knew, flight attendants were reporting to work as scheduled, and that those waiting for picketing duty had been sent home. Musto refused to discuss Genoese's strike declaration.
"As of right now, Genoese and our negotiating committee are meeting and discussing what the company has offered to the union," Musto said. "When they get out of that meeting and go through the proposal, they are going to get back to us with some sort of decision. It could be anything."
Northwest spokesman Redmond Tyler said a check of 125 airports turned up no sign of strike-related activity.
"We are still running the airline," Tyler said. "There is no picketing, no strike-related activites at airports. We are urging employees to report to work as scheduled."
The talks apparently broke down on the issue of wages after agreement was reached on several other issues.
"We are extremely disappointed the Teamsters recessed negotiations," Tyler said.