Northwest Airlines managers face more unrest as they turn their attention to mechanics who are threatening to strike over pay and work rules. This follows resolution of a pilot strike earlier this month.

The 27,000 maintenance workers of the USA's fourth-largest airline, who are represented by the International Association of Machinists, rejected tentative contract agreements in early August and authorised a strike. Northwest also faces contract talks with four other labour groups.

On 12 September, the pilots ratified a new four-year contract, ending a walkout that has grounded Northwest aircraft since 28 August. It is estimated that the strike cost the carrier $15 million a day. It was the longest US airline strike since the 1989 action by Eastern Airlines mechanics.

The deal gives the airline's 6,200 pilots a 12% pay rise. The pilots also won stock options and profit sharing concessions. The use of regional jets at Northwest Airlink carriers is linked to growth of Northwest's own fleet in the deal, and job protection is related to the proposed strategic alliance with Continental Airlines.

Meanwhile, Air Canada's 2,100 pilots have approved a new contract, ending a 13-day strike. The pilots failed to achieve their original demand of a 20% increase over two years (later reduced to 12%), and instead accepted the company's offer of a 9% raise over that period. They won concessions on scheduling, work hours and pension, however. Airline analysts estimate that the strike will cost Air Canada an estimated C$200 million ($132 million). The airline has been forced to cancel some routes and reorganise its winter schedule.

Labour unrest may threaten US Airways, where 6,000 baggage handlers and ramp workers have rejected the latest contract offer. Contract talks are under way with the company's 8,000 mechanics.

Source: Flight International