Judge Postpones Strike Decision
The bankruptcy judge
reviewing Mesaba's motion to block a strike by its workers has
postponed his decision.
Judge Gregory Kishel had given Mesaba permission to void its
labor contracts and impose new work rules as the carrier struggles
to climb out of bankruptcy. Labor negotiations haven't gone well,
with Mesaba unable to gain what it says are necessary
Mesaba must re-bid routes it currently flies for parent company
-- and sole customer -- Northwest. Mesaba says it needs cash from
its workers to make that bid competitive. So far, according to
company management, the three unions representing some
1500 pilots, flight attendants and mechanics haven't given
After Judge Kishel granted Mesaba permission to ditch its labor
contracts, the unions threatened to strike -- and Northwest pilots
said they'd stand by their Mesaba compatriots by not filling in.
Mesaba responded by asking Judge Kishel for a strike-blocking
The Associated Press reports, after hearing seven grueling hours
of testimony from both sides, Kishel balked at that decision.
Instead, he withdrew permission for Mesaba to impose new work rules
and postponed a decision on the strike question. Fortunately, for
Mesaba, he's also barred from doing so any creditors who had
threatened, should labor negotiations fail, to liquidate the
Union attorneys pleaded with the judge to reconsider his
previous rulings. They argued the unfairness of allowing the
company to impose rules without giving workers the opportunity to
strike in response. Mesaba had pledged to continue negotiations,
but workers say with a court order blocking a strike in hand , it
would have little incentive to negotiate in good faith.
Mesaba's president John Spanjers told the judge the company
would be devastated by a strike and likely fall victim to its
creditors saying, "Our flight operations would cease, and we would
likely see the creditors committee step in and seize our
Fraternal Association attorney Nicholas Granath said, "All hope of
any real leverage, any real negotiations to reach a consensual
agreement, will evaporate. It will evaporate with the stroke of a
pen, and that will be your honor's pen."
For now, the situation remains in limbo while the judge
contemplates the testimony. He says he'll likely rule late this
week or early next week.