American pilots' leaders OK contract Board divided, 12-6; pilots to vote


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. -- Leaders of American Airlines' pilots union approved yesterday a tentative four-year contract containing a 9 percent raise that would make its members the highest-paid U.S. airline pilots.

The Allied Pilots Association board voted 12-6 to send the contract to the group's 9,300 members for ratification, which will take at least a month, union President Jim Sovich said. Ratification is not certain because of a controversial provision allowing American's commuter affiliate to fly small jets in exchange for job protection for APA members.

If members reject the agreement, pilots could strike the nation's second largest airline in early June, four months after President Clinton ended an earlier walkout.

"If the regional jet flying was going to be done by American Airlines, the vote would have been 18 to nothing," Sovich said.

Tim Ross, director of equity research at SBC Warburg in New York, said he senses "a willingness within the membership of the APA to have a contract."

The board approval also moves AMR Corp. closer to placing an order for 103 new jets from the Boeing Co., a transaction worth more than $6 billion. The jet order, which already has been delayed by the contract dispute, is contingent upon APA members ratifying a contract.

Rob Held, an American first officer in Chicago who opposes the agreement, predicted that members will reject the proposal, as they did an earlier pact in January.

"I don't see any wholesale change of the 'no' votes over the 'yes' votes," he said.

Held is part of a group, APA Pilots Defending the Profession, that has vowed to campaign against the contract. Through an e-mail blitz on the Internet, the group was crucial in rallying members against the January contract.

The strongest opposition to the agreement comes from pilots in New York and Miami. Board members from those cities said they voted against the proposal.

In addition to specifying a 9 percent pay raise over four years and the job security provisions, the American contract also would give pilots options to buy 5.75 million AMR shares at a $10 discount to the market price.

Pub Date: 4/05/97

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