Back To The Bargaining Table
ANN REALTIME UPDATE 05.18.06 1900 EDT: For the second time in a
month, a bankruptcy court judge has rejected an airline's request
to toss out its existing contracts with union workers in order to
impose pay cuts. Just minutes ago, Judge Gregory Kishel ruled that
Mesaba Airlines cannot reject contracts with its pilots, flight
attendants, and mechanics.
"Clearly, the parties can -- and should -- continue efforts
toward a consensual resolution," Judge Gregory Kishel wrote in his
The ruling -- as well as the judge's strong suggestion for
Mesaba and its workers to return to the bargaining table -- comes
four weeks after a similar ruling involving Delta subsidiary
Comair. That carrier had requested permission to dump existing
contracts with its flight attendants.
Mesaba and its pilots have expressed hope they can still make a
deal. Less certain are negotiations between the carrier, and its
flight attendants and mechanics.
The next few days could either make-or-break Mesaba
Airlines, as a bankruptcy judge is expected to rule whether the
feeder carrier for Northwest Airlines will be allowed to reject its
In what has become an all-too-familiar predicament, unions
representing Mesaba's pilots, mechanics, and flight attendants have
threatened to strike the regional airline if Judge Gregory Kishel
makes such a decision -- a move Mesaba believes would be
Airline spokesperson Elizabeth Costello told the Associated
Press the airline would seek a court order to stop such a strike,
should it become necessary.
If recent events serve as an example, though, perhaps such a
move won't be necessary. Just last month, a judge denied a similar
request by Comair, the regional subsidiary for Delta Air Lines, to
toss aside its union contract with flight attendants. As Aero-News reported, the
judge ordered both parties back to negotiations.
Last minute deals have also been reached between pilots at Delta
and Northwest and their respective airlines, halting their talks of
strikes -- at least temporarily. Northwest's pilots approved their new
agreement earlier this month; Delta's pilots are
expected by many analysts to do the same, when they vote on their
own pay cut deal next week.
Even if a strike is
averted, however, the recent volatility of Mesaba's situation comes
at a very bad time for the airline, as it fights to hold onto
business for Northwest -- which is planning to launch its own
regional subsidiary, Compass, in the near future -- as well as
attract new business from such airlines as Continental.
Those negotiations haven't gone well for Mesaba so far, with
Continental rejecting the carrier's bid due to high costs, and
Northwest stating it will cut Mesaba's fleet -- which currently
includes Avro RJ85 (above) and Bombardier CRJ200 regional jets --
to just 49 Saab 340 turboprops (right), which are seen by many
passengers as a less attractive alternative.
That could mean that Mesaba -- which has flown for Northwest
since 1984 -- could be in danger of being marginalized, anyway,
regardless of how the judge's decision plays out.