AMR Pilots Seek More Time To Agree Deal

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Published: June 22, 2012

American Airlines’ pilots union has asked for more time to consider the company’s latest contract offer in hopes of avoiding a stalemate that could result in the unilateral imposition of interim work rules, according to two people close to the matter.

The Allied Pilots’ Association asked AMR, American’s bankrupt parent, for another week to negotiate a consensual contract, according to the people, who declined to be named because the discussions are private.

The union, which on Wednesday announced that talks had ended without a contract, now faces a court ruling, expected on Friday, that could allow AMR to impose interim work rules without the union’s consent.

AMR’s unions have been locked in a longstanding dispute with the company, which declared bankruptcy in November, saying it needs USD$ 1.25 billion in annual staff savings to become profitable.

American has asked Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane for permission to abandon its current contracts, which would let it impose interim terms unilaterally as it negotiates new long-term deals with its unions.

Judge Lane was due to issue a ruling on that request on Friday, but the APA has now asked AMR for more time to work out a deal, a request the airline is still considering, the people said. If the sides agreed to an extension, Judge Lane would likely hold off on issuing his ruling, they said.

The APA’s board on Wednesday said it could not send AMR’s offer to its members for a vote, citing a lack of specifics “in various areas” and the need for more time to consider contract provisions and related language.

A spokesman for the APA declined to comment on Thursday.

Bruce Hicks, a spokesman for AMR, also declined to discuss a possible extension.

“I’m not going to comment on anything that may or may not happen in that regard,” Hicks said.

Earlier this month, AMR’s flight attendants’ union said it had stopped negotiating with AMR and would take its chances on Judge Lane’s ruling.

AMR’s ground workers’ union has been split on AMR’s contract offer. Five of the union’s seven work groups voted last month to accept the deal, while two voted it down and remain in talks with the company.

All three unions have said they ultimately would prefer a merger with US Airways. US Air has been pushing hard for a merger, and has said a tie-up would salvage more than 6,000 jobs that would be cut under a standalone restructuring by AMR.

American has maintained it is focused on emerging from bankruptcy later this year as a standalone carrier but has said it would consider all options, including consolidation. Sources said earlier this month that US Airways hopes to file paperwork as early as July to clear antitrust regulations on a potential deal.

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