Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Delta, pilots to resume discussions

By James Pilcher
Enquirer staff writer

Delta Air Lines and its pilots union, after several weeks of not talking but firing some heated rhetoric at each other, plan to resume negotiations on possible concessions Thursday.

The meeting will be the first since Delta presented its pilots with a proposal that called for cutting $1 billion in annual pilot costs July 30, a package that would include a 35 percent pay cut as well as other benefit reductions and productivity increases.

The company says the cuts are needed to help Delta survive - it has lost more than $5 billion since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, including $1.96 billion in the second quarter of this year. It has also said that if it cannot cut costs, Delta is certain to declare bankruptcy, perhaps before the end of this year.

"We are anxious to resume discussions," Delta spokesman John Kennedy said Monday.

Delta and its Erlanger-based subsidiary, Comair, employ more than 8,000 at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, Delta's second-largest hub. That figure includes more than 800 Delta pilots out of the 7,500 members of the union.

The pilots had proposed a package earlier in July worth as much as $705 million that included a 23 percent pay cut and other concessions. The union slammed the company proposal as a "gouge."

Union officials also said talks would not resume until the company provided further details on possible benefits for the pilots, including an equity share in the airline and a voting seat on its board.

The meeting will come one day after Delta executives present a restructuring plan to the company's board for approval. Kennedy would not discuss the plan, which could include restructuring the airline's network and hubs.


E-mail jpilcher@enquirer.com

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