Saturday, August 05, 2000

Comair case continues, judge rules

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Comair Inc. pilots will continue defending themselves against the lawsuit filed by their employer after nearly 1,000 flights and 23,000 passengers were grounded in December.

        The Air Line Pilots Association had asked U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman for a final judgment — actually in favor of Comair — to end the court battle, saying it could taint contract negotiations that began in mid-1998.

        But Judge Bertelsman said Friday that the case will continue so that a 7-month-old injunction remains in place. It means he could hold the union of about 1,100 pilots in contempt if member pilots take unnecessary actions to cancel flights.

        “To get to the heart of this thing (or) what really bothers you is that Comair wants to continue discovery. That's what bothers you, isn't it? That's why I'm preserving the status quo,” he told the union's attorney, Marcus Mig liore of Washington, D.C., during a Friday telephone conference.

        Comair sued the union in December, alleging that its pilots had conducted an organized effort to delay and cancel flights by finding minor mechanical problems.

        Union officials have denied such an organized strategy.

        Both sides have spent the past year negotiating through the National Mediation Board.

        Court documents filed by the union claim the company could use its trial preparations to harass workers and obtain an unfair ad vantage at the bargaining table.

        Judge Bertelsman already has ruled that Comair cannot get damages from the pilots.

        “What is the company going to gain out of this beyond what they believe they already have?” union spokesman Paul Lackie asked. “If you don't get anything by winning, then what's the motive to pursue the case? We're just kind of scratching our heads.”

        Comair attorney E. Scott Smith said the company wants to continue collecting evidence.


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