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Mesaba files for mediation

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Mesaba Airlines, pilots' union request mediation
Liz Fedor
Star Tribune

Published Jun 19, 2002
After a year of negotiations, Mesaba Airlines and its pilots each filed applications Tuesday with the National Mediation Board, seeking outside help in reaching a new contract agreement.

About 960 pilots work for Minneapolis-based Mesaba, which reported $177,000 in net income for the fourth quarter that ended in March. Mesaba is the nation's fourth-largest regional airline.

On Tuesday, the company offered final and binding arbitration on the parties' best offers; the pilots rejected that proposal.

Stacy Platone, a spokeswoman for the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), said Tuesday "we're just not satisfied with the pace" and results of negotiations. The pilots believe that a mediator can come in and "make this a workable structure," Platone said.

"Mesaba seeks to reach an agreement that recognizes the achievements of its pilot group and the economic realities of the industry," said John Spanjers, the airline's chief operating officer and vice president of flight operations.

"While we continue to make some progress at the bargaining table, our request for mediation is the next logical step toward that goal and is a normal part of the process outlined by the Railway Labor Act," Spanjers said.

The National Mediation Board is expected to act quickly on the request for a mediator.

Mesaba's contract was amendable on June 1. Under the terms of the Railway Labor Act, the current contract will remain in place during the negotiation process.

In 1996, Platone said, Mesaba pilots signed a four-year contract agreement. Several months later, "the pilots agreed to concessions and a two-year extension at the request of the company," she said.

During the current round of talks, she said, progress has been extremely slow.

Mesaba operates as a Northwest Airlink affiliate and employs about 3,800 people. Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad is chairman of Mesaba's board.

During a briefing with analysts in May, Mesaba CEO and President Paul Foley said he expected tough economic conditions to extend through early next year. In the fourth quarter that ended in March, Mesaba had $102 million in operating revenue, a decline of 8.2 percent from the same period a year earlier.
 
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