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Delta pilots take 14 percent pay cut

By a narrow margin, the struggling airline's pilots agree to a second double-digit pay cut in the past 13 months.

Associated Press
Published December 29, 2005

ATLANTA - Delta Air Lines Inc. pilots voted on Wednesday to approve a 14 percent pay cut in a deal their union worked out with management to help the bankrupt carrier cope with an expected cash crunch.

About 58 percent of the members who voted approved the deal, which is the second double-digit pay cut the airline pilots have accepted in 13 months.

Delta and the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents the Atlanta company's 6,000 pilots, will try to hammer out a comprehensive agreement by March. If not, the sides have agreed to let the decision be made by a three-person arbitration panel.

Ultimately, 3,001 pilots voted to slash the average salary of rank-and-file pilots from $170,000 to about $146,000. The pilots also would give up other pilot pay and cost items equal to a 1 percent hourly wage reduction.

Before the sides reached the tentative agreement, the union had threatened to call a strike if the pilot contract was thrown out.

The vote turned out an unusually high 86 percent of the group's members, said Capt. John Culp of the union.

The margin, he said, "reflected the pilot group's anger over the concession request."

The pilots were concerned that management had failed to outline a plan that showed how further sacrifices would ensure the airline's future, he said.

Still, he said most pilots approved the union-brokered deal because it bought them extra time to forge another agreement.

"We don't like the position we're in. But we feel time is of the essence," Culp said. "This agreement gave us time for management's reorganization plan to become clearer."

The agreement, which the airline said would save $143-million, adds to the $1-billion in annual concessions Delta pilots approved in a five-year deal reached in 2004. That deal, which was meant to keep the cash-strapped airline out of bankruptcy, included a 32.5 percent pay cut.

"Given the critical nature of our financial situation, this provides much needed financial relief while we seek to reach a comprehensive agreement with ALPA," Delta chief executive Gerald Grinstein said.

Delta, which has lost more than $11-billion and cut more than 20,000 jobs over the past five years, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sept. 14. Last week, it asked the court for a six-month extension to exclusively file its reorganization plan, which is due Jan. 12.


The National Mediation Board on Wednesday rejected a bid by pilots for UPS Inc. to be released from federal mediation over contract talks with the company. The pilots union had threatened to go on strike within 30 days, if the request had been granted. The union said the board's decision does not decrease the likelihood of a strike, while the company said it thinks the sides can resolve their differences in mediation. Under the federal Railway Labor Act, the pilots can't strike while under federal mediation.

[Last modified December 29, 2005, 01:00:08]

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