With its pilots union in the fold, the focus shifted to the Machinists yesterday as Northwest Airlines pressed on with efforts to land an $886 million concessions deal with labor and avoid bankruptcy.
Although pilots have signed on to a deal, nothing can happen until all of Northwest's unions agree.
In broad terms, the pilots' pact -- unprecedented in the airline industry -- calls for all employees to grant $886 million in concessions over three years in return for an equity stake in the airline of as much as 37.5 percent, as well as three seats on the board of directors.
Transportation Secretary Federico F. Pena entered the fray yesterday, meeting with Northwest and union officials in Washington. Afterward, the company started new talks with Machinists leaders in an effort to agree on a revised deal to present to members.
"They're talking and they'll probably be talking for a few days," said John Massetti, secretary-treasurer of International Association of Machinists District 143.
People familiar with the talks said they expected that an agreement would be reached in the next few days and that the answer to a settlement would be found in details of the Machinists' contract that affect specifics of their jobs, rather than in altering the concession pact ratified Tuesday morning by the pilots' union.
Meanwhile, as Northwest's future remains uncertain, the company is facing pressure from vendors the airline has not paid.
Mesaba Aviation, Northwest's largest regional airline partner, turned up the heat yesterday and insisted that it be paid the $5.4 million the airline has owed since June 28.
Northwest promised to make the payment today after Mesaba told the company it needed the money to keep operating, said John Fredericksen, Mesaba vice president and general counsel.
The new talks between Northwest and Machinists included NWA President and Chief Executive Officer John Dasburg; John Peterpaul, general vice president of the Machinists; and Tom Pedersen, IAM District 143 president.
The Machinists, the largest and most diverse union at Northwest, are considered the biggest question mark. Its own deal with the company unraveled last month after 64 percent of voting members rejected the plan.
Mr. Pena met yesterday for 45 minutes with Mr. Dasburg, Mr. Peterpaul, Teamsters President Ronald Carey and Duane Woerth, executive vice president of the Air Line Pilots Association.