Only days before US Airways is set to officially merge with American Airlines, a labor dispute threatens to complicate the plan to create the world's largest airline.
A machinists union for US Airways has asked members of Congress to help settle a contract dispute that has been lingering for more than two years.
US Airways and American Airlines are scheduled on Monday to initiate a merger plan to create the world's largest airline. It may take up to two years, however, for the carriers to operate as one.
The International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers says US Airways has worked hard in the last 18 months to push for the merger and even helped negotiate contracts with American Airlines workers.
But the union complains that US Airways has not been able to negotiate a fair contract with its own workers.
And now US Airways officials fear that the union may be trying to disrupt flights to pressure the airline to approve a contract.
In a letter to the union, E. Allen Hemenway, vice president of labor relations for US Airways, said he believes the union has a campaign to slow down its maintenance work and refuse to accept overtime assignments.
"If mechanics and related employees collectively engage in the behavior encouraged by these campaigns, it will likely result in flight delays and/or cancellations impacting the traveling public during the upcoming travel holiday season," Hemenway said in the letter.
Union Vice President Sito Pantoja wrote back to Hemenway, denying that the union was behind any such tactics.
[Updated 2:45 p.m. PST Dec. 4: The union, representing nearly 3,000 workers at US Airways, will not sign off on a plan to operate the two airlines as one until a contract agreement is reached, said Randy Griffith, general chairman of the IAM, District 142. "They can't integrate until they settle with us," he said. A spokesman for the airline said it is now up to a federal mediator to determine the next step in the negotiations with the union.]