Mechanics Call Strike Against Pan American : Union Claims to Have Enough Support to Halt Most of Carrier’s Flights

Associated Press

Transport workers announced early today that they were on strike against Pan American World Airways and said they had enough support from other unions to ground most of the carrier’s 400 daily flights.

The strike was announced at 12:35 a.m. by John Kerrigan, director of the Transport Workers Union, which represents 5,800 mechanics, flight dispatchers, baggage handlers and food service workers.

On Wednesday, Pan Am made new contract offers to the mechanics, but Kerrigan said they were rejected.


Pan Am pilots have promised to honor any picket lines set up by the the union, Kerrigan said. Leaders of other unions representing flight attendants, fuel truck drivers and ticket agents said they also had advised their members to stay off the job, he said.

“I think the airline has a lot to be concerned about,” said Dennis Nadale, president of the Independent Union of Flight Attendants. “Even if they replaced us, they can’t fly without mechanics, and they can’t fly without fuel.”

Three Early Arrivals

The airline had three early arrivals expected from overseas today: a flight from Dahran Saudi Arabia at 5:40 a.m., from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at 6:04 a.m., and from Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal at 6:16 a.m.

Supervisory personnel would be used to handle the baggage on all three 747 jets when they landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport, said Jeff Kriendler, a Pan Am vice president.

“Our departures don’t begin until 8 a.m., so that gives us plenty of time to discuss our contingency plans,” Kriendler said.

Pan Am has been contacting its competitors to seek available space for any of its 39,000 daily passengers who might be grounded by a canceled flight, company spokesman James Arey said.

“Our first responsibility is to the traveling public, and we would make every effort to accommodate all passengers and shipments, either on our own or on other airlines’ flights,” Arey said.

The company on Wednesday night offered the transport workers a 20% wage increase over 36 months, Kerrigan said. In addition, Pan Am offered mechanics an immediate $1,200 bonus and a $900 bonus to the other bargaining employees, he said.

The airline had postponed its final offer to mechanics until after settling with pilots Tuesday afternoon, Kriendler said.

The pilots’ contract was described as “cost-effective and productivity-conscious” by Pan Am Chairman C. Edward Acker, who said he hoped it would set the pattern for negotiations with the carrier’s four other unions.

But Jon Montague, president of Transport Workers Union Local 540, said pilots will honor any picket lines set up by his union.

Union leaders representing flight attendants, fuel truck drivers and ticket agents said they had advised their members to honor the strike.

Pension Reductions

Pan Am has asked all 19,000 unionized employees for more productivity and large reductions in pension and health-care benefits.

The airline had a pre-tax operating loss of $106.7 million last year. It has not made a profit since 1980 and has cut more than 8,000 jobs in the last five years.

The Transport Workers Union has asked for the 14% wage increase that its members postponed in 1982, but by Tuesday the company had offered only a 4% increase in each of the next three years, Kerrigan said.

The union resisted Pan Am’s demands for part-time workers and creation of a second salary scale as much as 50% lower for all new full-time employees, he said.

However, an agreement could have been reached if Pan Am would restore the union members’ wages to full contract value and guarantee the jobs of all current employees, as American Airlines has, Kerrigan said.

Pan Am flies to six continents, serving 89 cities. Its major bases in the United States are New York City, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu.

A Pan Am mechanic earns a top base salary of $29,500, compared with $39,600 at United Airlines. Baggage handlers earn $23,800, compared with $31,600 at United.