A federal judge barred machinists Tuesday from continuing a sympathy walkout in support of flight attendants on strike for five days against TWA.
About 5,700 flight attendants struck last week in a dispute over wage concessions and a productivity increase sought by the airline, and support from the machinists was considered essential to the success of their action.
Machinists began returning to work Tuesday after the judge first indicated he was prepared to sign a preliminary injunction barring them from honoring picket lines.
About 80% of the afternoon shift reported to the airline's maintenance base in Kansas City, said Jerry Nichols, TWA senior vice president for ground operations.
Bargainers were scheduled to meet today in Philadelphia for the first session since the strike began.
Predicts Harm to TWA
U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs, in issuing the preliminary injunction, said the machinists' actions "have caused and will cause immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage" to TWA.
Sachs said that if continued, the union's actions were likely to prevent the airline from operating on schedule or at all, leading to a substantial loss of revenue and "severe injury to its air carrier operations and to its reputation as a reliable and efficient carrier."
Attorneys for the International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and for TWA declined comment.
The machinists union's sympathy walkout had closed TWA's base in Kansas City, where one-third of the machinists maintain the airline's fleet.
TWA Chairman Carl C. Icahn, meanwhile, said in an interview in New York City that he expected the airline to resume 100% of its flights by next week.
Icahn Threatens Sale
"Our plan was to fly 50% of our airline (during the strike)," Icahn said. "We're now moving to 62%. The next few days it will go up to 75%, next week 100%."
He said that if the airline did not win the strike, "this airline would be sold--sold in pieces or sold as a whole to another airline. I am not going to sit here and watch TWA bleed to death."
Sachs was told during a hearing Monday that growing machinists' support for the Independent Federation of Flight Attendants' strike threatened to force TWA to ground its planes as they come due for government-required maintenance.
About 9,100 TWA employees who are members of the machinists union perform airplane maintenance and repair, as well as food preparation, baggage and cargo handling and other ground operations.
Right to Walk Out Claimed
A company official told Sachs that just less than 20% of those due to work Monday morning showed up.
The airline filed a grievance against the union last week, saying its contract barred a sympathy strike, but the machinists contend they have not waived rights to walk out in support of a lawful strike.
In a memorandum sent attorneys before he signed the order, Sachs termed the no-strike clause "ambiguous and thus subject to arbitration."
However, the judge said, "based on the history of this type of IAM clause, and its formal interpretation to date, it seems very probable that the System Board of Adjustment will rule for TWA."