CHICAGO Efforts to end the contract dispute between United Airlines and its mechanics suffered a setback yesterday when a mediator called off plans for a resumption of face-to-face talks between the deadlocked sides.
The move came after federal mediator Stephen Crable failed to make progress toward ending the stalemate in two days of separate meetings with the negotiating teams in San Francisco.
The National Mediation Board issued a brief statement saying a decision would be made by next week on how to proceed.
That leaves unresolved the most pressing labor issue for the worlds largest airline, which has canceled thousands of flights since labor strife emerged last spring involving its pilots and mechanics.
The mechanics union, which United accuses of orchestrating a work slowdown that is still causing a small number of daily cancellations, called the airlines latest offer inadequate.
"Were not getting anywhere," said Joe Tiberi, a spokesman for the International Association of Machinists unit representing 15,000 United mechanics. "Weve been negotiating now for over a year. ... Theyve promised their employees industry-leading contracts, but thats not whats being brought to the table."
The union renewed its call for the mediator to declare an impasse, which would clear the way for mechanics to strike following a required 30-day cooling-off period. Union officials say the threat of a strike is necessary to get United to make a fair contract offer.
United spokesman Joe Hopkins said the airline had no comment.
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