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Machinists, USAir resume bargaining Strike deadline set at 7 a.m. today


USAir and the union representing some 8,300 Machinists for the airline resumed negotiations in Washington yesterday as the Machinists set a strike deadline of 7 a.m. today barring a settlement or progress, according to the airline.

The airline, which is the largest carrier at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, said yesterday that it began talks again with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) at the union's request with a federal mediator present.

"The IAM has formally notified us that it intends to strike unless settlement or progress is made in today's [yesterday's] talks," the airline said in a recorded statement.

The Machinists could not be reached for comment last night.

The nation's sixth-largest airline, which is based in Arlington, Va., and operates 2,700 jet flights daily, reiterated its intent to continue operations.

"The company intends to fly a significant percent of its jet flights," the airline said, though declining to elaborate.

Last week, USAir said it would use federally licensed supervisors to avoid a shutdown. None of the airline's 2,000 commuter and express flights would be affected, the company said, because mechanics working on those aircraft are not involved in the current contract dispute.

"USAir will do everything it can to accommodate passengers on USAir or other carrier flights," said Susan Young, a spokeswoman for the airline. "All reservation offices are staffed to capacity in anticipation of very high levels of calls from passengers."

She suggested that people with tickets call USAir early today. The airline should have information on the number of flights operating if a strike has begun,she said.

She had no information about the progress of the talks late last night.

At BWI, 110 of USAir's 200 daily flights are commuter or express service. More than 60 percent of BWI's 27,000 daily passengers fly USAir.

USAir said last night that it anticipates that unions representing other workers would cross the Machinists' picket lines.

Friday, after votes from locals around the country were tallied, the IAM announced that the Machinists had overwhelmingly rejected the company's latest offer and a decision about when to strike would come by today.

The dispute focuses on wage and benefit reductions along with work-rule changes sought by the airline, which has lost more than $675 million during the last two years.

The IAM maintains the latest offer would force Machinists to bear a heavier burden than other employees who have granted concessions.

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