Negotiations Recess In TWA Strike; No New Talks Scheduled
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ An effort to settle the strike of Trans World Airlines flight attendants failed Wednesday during three hours of face-to-face talks, with a federal mediator reporting no progress and no new negotiations scheduled.
Victoria Frankovich, president of the 5,700-member Independent Federation of Flight Attendants, blamed the impasse on the absence from the bargaining table of Carl Icahn, who owns 52 percent of the airline’s stock.
″There is no possibility of reaching an agreement without Mr. Icahn being here, but I am always optimistic,″ she said.
Wednesday’s talks were the first since bargaining halted Friday at the start of the walkout.
″We have recessed,″ said Helen Witt of the National Mediation Board, which had called both sides together. ″No progress has been made in the talks. We intend to stay in touch with the parties and when there is a basis for resumption of negotiations we will bring them back together.″
The six-member TWA negotiating team, headed by William Hoar, vice president of labor relations, left the hotel swiftly after talks broke off, avoiding reporters and making no statements.
Ms. Witt, who with mediator Robert Brown had presided at the negotiations, declined to discuss the absence of Icahn, or whether it impacted on the failure to make progress.
″Mr. Icahn was well represented,″ she said.
Icahn had been TWA’s chief negotiator before the strike began, and neither Ms. Witt or union and management spokespersons explained why Icahn was not present.
TWA, which reported a loss of $193.1 million last year, has insisted the flight attendants take a 22 percent pay cut and work more hours every day with less rest between flights.
The union offered to accept a 15 percent cut in base pay, which ranges from $16,000 to $28,000 a year, although some experienced attendants earn as much as $36,000, including overtime. It balked at accepting greater changes in work rules that have already been accepted by other TWA workers.
Ms. Frankovich said before talks resumed that the sides were far apart on the work rule concessions, and after they broke off she said nothing new had been offered.
Ms. Frankovich had briefly left the talks before they recessed to address some 40 union members picketing outside the downtown hotel negotiation site, and later denied a broadcast report that claimed settlement had been reached on all but one issue.
″I’m sorry to announce that we have not come to terms despite whatever rumors are out,″ she said after urging her cheering members to ″hang in there and we will prevail.″
Other strikers, meanwhile, rallied in nearby Independence Mall.
″Icahn wants to break our union,″ said Carol Ehmann, 38, of Newtown, Pa., whose two children, 18 months and 4 years, wore signs that read, ″My parent is no scab.″
She said that Icahn ″thinks 18- or 19-year olds can do this job, and they can’t.″ Jeremy Ehmann, 4, clutched her hand and shouted, ″I’m proud of my Mommy.″
TWA came to the Wednesday negotiations armed with an injunction, issued in Kansas City the day before, which bars machinists from staying off the job in support of the attendants.
It was a major victory for the airline that had cancelled many flights because of machinists who honored airport picket lines.
But Ms. Frankovich, admitting that the injunction was a setback, said she didn’t expect the court order to deter flight attendants. ″Our members are united and we’re prepared to fight this fight ourselves,″ she said.
Icahn said in an interview Tuesday in New York that he expected TWA to resume 100 percent of its flights by next week.
″Our plan was to fly 50 percent of our airline (during the strike),″ Icahn said. ″We’re now moving to 62 percent. The next few days it will go up to 75 percent, next week 100 percent.″
He said that if TWA 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.″
Case Smaal, 47, a striker from of North Wales, Pa., said the flight attendants have been ″very fair to TWA. We’ve offered to give up the same amount as other workers, and we don’t think we should give up more.″
In New York, police arrested 16 union members Tuesday night after they linked arms and blocked an entrance to a TWA cargo hangar at John F. Kennedy International Airport for nearly an hour.
The protest was aimed at members of the International Association of Machinists returning to work under the injunction.
″We were trying to convince them not to go to work, to continue to support our strike,″ said Norma Adams, a spokeswoman for the attendants.
The 16 were handed summonses for disorderly conduct and released, said Allen Morrison, spokesman for the Port authority of New York which operates the terminal.
U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs, in issuing the injunction, ruled that the actions of the machinists ″have caused and will cause immediate and irreparable injury loss or damage″ to TWA.
Pilots have honored the no-strike clause in their contract.
TWA said the strike cost it $6 million in the first two days. The airline, trying to lure passengers back, has cut the price of every fare by 30 percent.