Friday, August 04, 2000

Comair pilots seek end to suit

Union wants judgment for carrier

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Comair Inc. pilots, who received a federal court order in December to stop causing disruptions that grounded flights during the holidays, will cry surrender today in U.S. District Court.

        They want U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman to issue a final judgment in favor of their employer, even though the Erlanger-based carrier is more interested in pursuing its lawsuit against the pilots union.

        A hearing is set for 2 p.m.

        Comair attorneys say they want to determine the extent of the union's involvement in the alleged “work slowdown” that took place.

        Union officials, who have denied any organized effort to deliberately ground flights, say they just want the lawsuit over.

        They said it is pointless because Judge Bertelsman issued an injunction that promised to hold the union in contempt if pilots took unnecessary actions to cancel Comair flights.

        “It's time now for the judge to render a decision,” said J.C. Lawson, union chairman. “We're just asking to get this thing over with, (although) the company is unjustified in allegations against us.”

        The union has about 1,100 Comair pilots in its membership.

        In court documents, union attorneys contend that the company's pursuit of the lawsuit will taint contract negotiations that began in mid-1998.

        “The collective bargaining process will ... be undermined, and it will be far more difficult to bring about a settlement,” read the court documents. The lawsuit “will only serve to inflame tensions and further raise the level of antagonism.”

        Comair sued the union in December, accusing the pilots of delaying and canceling flights by finding minor mechanical problems with Comair's regional jets and turboprops.

        Comair officials claimed such actions cost the company about $900,000 in a three-day span.

        When granting the injunction, Judge Bertelsman scolded the company and union lawyers for not considering passengers.

        The judge already has ruled that Comair cannot get damages from the pilots.

        The judge cited a 1995 ruling that damages are not an appropriate remedy for “a job action such as this.”

        The Enquirer could not reach Greater Cincinnati lawyers involved in the case.


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