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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Northwest proposes to reduce pay, benefits

By Martin J. Moylan
St. Paul Pioneer Press

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Northwest: www.nwa.com

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ST. PAUL, Minn. Wage cuts of 11.5 percent, fewer holidays and vacation days, and reduced pay for sick days are some of the losses faced by Northwest Airlines' baggage handlers and other equipment service employees if they approve a proposed contract with the airline.

Their union released details of the pact over the weekend. Northwest, in the midst of a bankruptcy reorganization, says the revised deal would save it about $190 million a year.

The union says it is disappointed by the deal, but adds that rejecting it would lead to even more unpalatable wages and work rules. Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest likely would be freed by the Bankruptcy Court to unilaterally impose a contract on the workers.

A vote on the proposed agreement has not yet been scheduled but is expected to start within a few weeks.

The deal would run through December 2010 if the airline emerges from bankruptcy this year or December 2011 if it doesn't emerge until 2007.

The wage cut would reduce the pay range for the employees to $9.08 to $18.44 an hour.

Employees would pay 15 percent of the cost of their health insurance premiums under a redesigned health plan.

The workers would get seven paid holidays, down from 10. And employees would lose a week of vacation. They would max out at six weeks after 29 years.

Workers would receive just 75 percent of their pay for the first seven consecutive work days of illness.

The pact also permits the outsourcing of ground-worker jobs at airports that don't qualify as "mainline" stations. For the most part, those would be airports with fewer than 50 Northwest departures per week. The move would cost members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers about 490 jobs.

Also subject to outsourcing is the catering service at the airline's Twin Cities hub. That would cost 126 jobs, according to the union's summary of the proposed deal.

Under the proposed contract, 25 percent of equipment service employees at Northwest's Twin Cites and Detroit hubs could be part-timers. Elsewhere, half of the employees in that job category could be part-timers. The proposal also freezes the workers' current pension plan.