Northwest Air Planning Talks With Mechanics

Northwest Airlines (NWAC) said it has tentative plans to resume negotiations on Thursday with the union representing 4,400 striking mechanics and other maintenance workers, the No. 4 U.S. carrier said Wednesday.

The workers walked off the job on Aug. 20 after failing to reach a labor deal. Since then, the airline has continued flying using temporary workers and outside vendors.

A spokesman for the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (search), which represents about 4,400 striking mechanics and other maintenance workers, declined to confirm that a meeting would take place spokesman Jeff Mathews said. He added that news from the NMB could come any time.

In a letter to AMFA dated Sept. 6, Northwest Vice President of Labor Relations Julie Hagen Showers said the current operation is by nature an "interim measure."

Northwest said it was willing to continue talks with AMFA, but that due to skyrocketing fuel prices it can no longer stand behind its proposal made just ahead of the strike.

AMFA has said Northwest's best offer was to terminate about half of its AMFA-represented jobs and impose hefty pay cuts on the remaining workers.

Northwest has said it needs $1.1 billion in annual labor cost savings to restructure and avert bankruptcy. The carrier was seeking $176 million of that amount from mechanics.

Northwest said it may need to raise its labor cost savings target to offset fuel prices.

"If AMFA desires to return to the negotiating table, the company is certainly willing to do so," Showers wrote. "The company remains willing to reach a consensual agreement with AMFA and thereby end the strike."

She added that such an agreement must be consistent with the increasingly dire circumstances in the airline industry.

Shares of Northwest were down 34 cents at $3.63 on Nasdaq in late trading.