Georgia governor confident Delta, pilots will avert strike |

Georgia governor confident Delta, pilots will avert strike

ATLANTA – Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said Friday he is confident Delta Air Lines Inc. and its pilots will reach a deal on pay and benefit cuts in time to avert a strike, adding that he believes there is no need at this time to call in the Bush administration for help.”I’m hopeful the pilots and management from Delta can work it out,” Perdue, a Republican seeking re-election, told reporters after a luncheon where he spoke on the state’s economic outlook.Asked if he would call in the White House for help in the dispute at the Atlanta-based airline, Perdue said that it’s too early for that.”I’m pulling for Delta,” Perdue said. “I believe Delta will rise higher. But I do think it’s one of the challenges for us.”On Thursday, the pilots union at the nation’s third-largest carrier voted to ask rank-and-file members to authorize a strike. The union has not said when ballots will be sent out. A successful strike authorization would allow union leaders to call a strike without going before members again.Delta says it could begin imposing $325 million in concessions on its 6,000 pilots on Dec. 16 if a bankruptcy court judge doesn’t reach a decision by then on the airline’s request to void the pilot contract. The pilots union has threatened to strike if Delta imposes new terms or succeeds in voiding the pilot contract.A hearing on the contract rejection request was scheduled to resume Friday afternoon in New York, but was postponed because of inclement weather.In the spring of 2001, President Bush appointed a presidential emergency board when Northwest Airlines Corp. mechanics came within days of striking. However, Bush chose not to appoint an emergency board before Northwest mechanics struck on Aug. 20 of this year. Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest said it has hired permanent replacements or vendors to do their work.It’s not clear what Bush would do if Delta’s situation progresses to that point or even if such a board would have authority. A Delta spokeswoman, Chris Kelly, declined to comment on whether the company believes a presidential emergency board would have authority in the Delta case if the airline succeeds in voiding the pilot contract. A union spokesman, John Culp, said he would have to speak with union lawyers before commenting on the subject.The airline has asserted that other provisions of the Railway Labor Act do apply even if the pilot contract is voided. In that context, it has said a strike by the pilots would be illegal. The pilots have argued that if their contract is voided, they would have the right to strike.Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, during a visit to Atlanta on Thursday, declined to say whether the Bush administration would step in if the Delta pilots strike.”We hope that ultimately they come to a conclusion that is good for everyone,” Gutierrez said in an interview with The Associated Press.Delta, which has lost more than $11 billion since January 2001, filed for bankruptcy protection in New York on Sept. 14. It is one of Georgia’s largest employers.Delta’s pilots, who are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, initially offered the company $90.7 million in average annual concessions over four years. They have since reviewed their proposal and now value it at $150 million, which would include a 9 percent pay cut for seven months followed by lower cuts thereafter.The cuts would be on top of $1 billion in annual concessions the pilots agreed to last year.—On the Net:Delta Air Lines Inc.:

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