MINNEAPOLIS Hours after the National Mediation Board released Northwest Airlines and its mechanics union from negotiations yesterday, President Bush vowed to extend the cooling-off period by another 60 days if a contract agreement is not met.
The boards release would have allowed mechanics to go on strike as early as midnight on March 12, but Bushs extension would keep them on the job through mid-May.
"If this dispute is not settled in 30 days, the president will accept the recommendation of the National Mediation Board to create a presidential emergency board," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in a prepared statement. "The president is concerned about an airline strike that could threaten the economy."
Northwest spokesman Jon Austin said the Eagan, Minn.-based airline would fly its full schedule through the negotiations.
Steve MacFarlane, president of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association Local 33, said members went from elation to disappointment when they learned that they would not be able to legally walk off the job in 30 days.
"The way we feel about it is that this is tantamount to being a slave," MacFarlane said. "We have been told that you cannot walk off the job to show your displeasure with your working conditions. Its a devastating occurrence, and we cant think of anything that would have been worse."
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