Northwest Airlines Flight Attendants Reject Wage Cuts

Northwest Airlines Corp. flight attendants rejected a pay cut package on Tuesday, setting up a possible showdown with the nation's fifth-largest carrier.

The Professional Flight Attendants Association said 80 percent of its members voted against the wage-cut deal.

Northwest, which has been operating under bankruptcy protection since last Septemnber, had said previously that it would have the right to impose terms if the tentative agreement was rejected. Spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said he had no immediate comment Tuesday.

"PFAA is prepared to immediately return to negotiations with the company in order to reach a fair and equitable agreement as soon as possible," union President Guy Meek said in a hotline message to members. He said the union reserves the right to strike. A strike authorization ballot won support from 92 percent of union members in February.

The rejected contract would have cut hourly pay by 21 percent and would have left flight attendants making roughly $18,000 to $43,000 a year. The union said that increases in health insurance premiums and other concessions would have meant losing the equivalent of 40 percent of their pay.

Northwest has been seeking savings worth $195 million a year from flight attendants as part of $1.4 billion in concessions from all its workers. Most workers have approved concessions. The other holdouts are baggage handlers and ramp workers, who are voting through this week on their own concessions. Their ballots will be counted on Friday.

Northwest has a history of labor troubles. When mechanics struck in August, Northwest kept flying and eventually hired permanent replacements. Its pilots struck in 1998.