Eastern Airlines went back into federal court Monday against its Machinists union, accusing workers of engaging in an illegal slowdown just days before a Friday strike deadline.
The money-losing airline requested an injunction forcing the union to stop the slowdown and accept mandatory overtime, while permitting the company to subcontract some repairs to catch up on a growing backlog.
U.S. District Judge C. Clyde Atkins gave the Machinists until today to respond to the injunction, and is expected to schedule a hearing shortly afterward.
The Machinists in turn blame Eastern and Frank Lorenzo, the chairman of Eastern’s parent Texas Air Corp., for any delays in putting planes back on line.
“Mr. Lorenzo has taken most of the newer aircraft from Eastern’s fleet and put them over at Continental (Airlines),” said union spokesman Wally Haber. “The ones we have over here are old ones that need a lot of work.”
Continental, a non-union carrier based in Houston, is another Texas Air subsidiary.
Eastern says that while 36,000 man-hours are needed to service four to six planes normally, union workers are now taking 97,000 hours.
The result has increased the backlog by almost 15 engines above the company’s operating plan, Eastern said.
At a Feb. 17 hearing on the same issues, Atkins ordered the union to accept overtime while telling Eastern to stop farming out its plane repairs. Eastern claims that the union has violated that order, and wants to begin contracting out again.
On another front, the Machinists once again called for creation of a presidential emergency board empowered to declare a 60-day cooling-off period when the current one ends at midnight EST Friday.