A Shotgun Negotiation?
You'd better make nice, and quickly,
or else. That's the impression one gets from the decision reached
by National Mediation Board Tuesday, regarding stalled negotiations
between Northwest Airlines and its flight attendants.
Reuters reports the NMB, an independent federal agency that
mediates contract talks for railroads and airlines, refused to
honor a request by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) that
it end formal mediation, and declare an impasse in the contentious
talks. Such a declaration would have allowed the flight attendants
union to strike the bankrupt carrier.
No deal, said the NMB... which ordered both sides to return to
the bargaining table Wednesday. The two sides haven't held formal
talks since the union came within hours of striking
Northwest in August, after the carrier imposed its own
contract on FAs following two rejected tentative agreements.
AFA President Patricia Friend said she was not surprised by the
NMB's decision... nor does she expect it to be the final word on an
"If they are going to make a recommendation, they have to be
very thorough," she said.
Few analysts expect the "shotgun" negotiations ordered by the
NMB to be any more successful than previous talks, however, in
reaching an amicable resolution in what has become a stubborn
roadblock in Northwest's quest to realize $195 million in annual
savings. The flight attendants union is the last holdout among
Northwest's employees in accepting cuts in pay and benefits.
"I'm just not confident that there's any change in the process,"
said Doug Abbey, an airline management consultant at the Velocity
For its part, Northwest held to its previous statements that the
airline is willing to negotiate... as long as the final agreement
meets the airline's savings goals.
"Northwest looks forward to renewing its negotiations with the
AFA in hopes of reaching consensual agreements," said spokesman