WASHINGTON – President Bush does not plan to use the route available to him to avert a possible strike by mechanics at Northwest Airlines that could begin as soon as this weekend, the White House said Monday.
A 30-day cooling-off period that mediators declared between Northwest and its mechanics ends at 12:01 a.m. EDT Saturday. If no agreement is reached beforehand, a strike could then begin or the airline could lock out the mechanics.
Bush can appoint a presidential emergency board, in a move that would put either action on hold until the panel examines the dispute. The president used that option in the spring of 2001 when Northwest mechanics came within days of striking.
But White House spokesman Trent Duffy said no such move is expected from Bush this time.
"Last month, the National Mediation Board found that a labor action at Northwest Airlines would not present a substantial disruption of interstate commerce," Duffy said. "The administration does not dispute this conclusion based on current information, and the president is not creating a Presidential Emergency Board."
Northwest wants $1.1 billion in cuts from its unions in hopes of avoiding bankruptcy.
But the airline lost more money in its last quarter alone than it proposes to save from mechanics each year. It faces hundreds of millions of dollars in pension payments next year. And jet fuel remains stubbornly expensive.
The union says the airline's proposed cuts are unacceptable.