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United Pilots End Walkout : Attendants’ Return Clears Way for Accord

Associated Press

United Airlines’ 5,000 striking pilots agreed late Friday to end their 29-day strike, clearing the way for the nation’s largest air carrier to return to normal operations.

The 27-member Master Executive Council of the Air Line Pilots Assn. approved the settlement shortly before midnight, said Bob Lamote, a pilot and spokesman for the pilots’ union.

Earlier Friday, United flight attendants had said they would return to work without a back-to-work agreement. The pilots had delayed final agreement on a settlement until the attendants, many of whom had honored pilots’ picket lines, agreed to return to work.

“We are ready to go back to work,” pilots union spokesman Steve Crews said. “For the pilots, it’s a matter of putting on uniforms. For the airline, I’ll have to defer that question (of when pilots can return to work) to them.”

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A vote of the entire union membership was not necessary to ratify the agreement.

Joe Hopkins, a spokesman for United Airlines, said the company was “satisfied with the contract agreement.”

He said United planned to resume service to all 50 states and its 10 foreign locations, with the schedule resumption to be announced Monday.

“Our goal is to maintain our integrity and reliability,” Hopkins said. “We will not be rushed. . . . We want to come back in an orderly manner.”

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Pay System an Issue

The pilots walked off their jobs May 17 after the union and airline were unable to reach agreement on the airline’s proposal for a two-tier pay system under which newly hired pilots would be paid less than veterans.

United has been operating about 14% of its 1,550 daily flights since the strike began.

Flight attendants decided to return without a back-to-work agreement because United sought reduced seniority for those who honored picket lines, said Patty Friend, a spokeswoman with the Assn. of Flight Attendants. She promised litigation over the matter.

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About 80% of the 10,000 United employees represented by the union observed picket lines, said Carol Holmes, vice chairwoman of the attendants union’s Master Executive Council. The union reached agreement on financial matters May 24.

Released From Pledge

The action by the flight attendants released the pilots from their pledge not to return to work until the attendants had an agreement, Holmes said.

United spokesman Chuck Novak said the company would have no comment on the proposed litigation.

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Earlier, United spokesman Joe Hopkins had said that the tentative agreement with the pilots would be nullified if it were not accepted by today by the pilots union’s Master Executive Council.

Ralph Colliander, a member of the National Mediation Board, declined to comment Friday on the contents of the board’s settlement with the pilots, which had been tentatively accepted by negotiators for both parties early Wednesday.

Discussions between the company and the 13-member Master Executive Council of the attendants’ union focused on the same back-to-work issues that triggered a breakdown in talks between the company and the pilots, said M. J. Brenne, a spokeswoman for the attendants’ union.

Hearing Set for Monday

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Meanwhile, attorneys for the union and United were told to appear Monday before U.S. District Judge Nicholas Bua for a hearing on a lawsuit filed by the union charging the air carrier with engaging in unfair labor practices.

Bua postponed the hearing, originally scheduled for last Thursday, at the request of union attorney Michael Abram.

At issue in the lawsuit are the fate of 566 pilot trainees who honored picket lines and the seniority of strikers, LeRoy said.

United has said it does not consider its newly trained pilots to be employees. It also had said that pilots who worked during the walkout would be given preference in bidding on assignments.

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