MINNEAPOLIS – Striking Northwest Airlines (search) mechanics said on Saturday they expect to make a deal with the airline, although striking workers probably won't like it.
It's the first time the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (search) has said it expects a deal, and that its members would probably get to vote on it.
"We all know that at some point an agreement must be reached. We also know that any tentative agreement is going to be extreme by any measure," said Steve MacFarlane (search), the union's Assistant National Director, in a hotline message Saturday.
The union has said Northwest wants to keep 1,080 mechanics' jobs and eliminate the aircraft cleaner and custodian positions represented by the union. That represents about 3,350 layoffs, up from the 2,000 Northwest sought before the strike.
Northwest's proposal would save it $203 million a year, up from the $176 million it sought before the strike began Aug. 20.
Northwest made its proposal on Thursday, and the union hasn't rejected it, even though it's a far worse deal than the one they struck over.
MacFarlane indicated that union members would get a chance to vote on any deal.
"The committee has an obligation to give you a choice," MacFarlane said. "The members have the obligation and the right to make that choice."
Both sides returned Saturday to the downtown hotel where they've been negotiating, with face-to-face talks expected later in the day.
Northwest has said time is running out for it to avoid bankruptcy. Oct. 16 is the last day before a new, more restrictive bankruptcy law takes effect, and CEO Doug Steenland has acknowledged that the law change is one factor in the company's bankruptcy considerations.
Northwest is seeking $1.1 billion in annual labor cost savings, and it has said rising fuel prices mean it will probably raise that target. It is in talks with all of its workers.
On Friday, pilots said Northwest told them it wants $322 million in savings. The union gave no response to Northwest's proposal. Last year pilots accepted a 15 percent pay cut worth $300 million when combined with a pay cut for salaried management workers.