With time running out on
ability to avoid a second bankruptcy filing, pilots have put a wage concessions package on the negotiating table one day after unanimously rejecting management's last proposal.
About 12 hours after rejecting management's latest proposal, pilots presented their offer to the company late Monday night, with the union saying it expects to hear back from management sometime Tuesday. The carrier's fate is being decided at the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington, Va., where labor and management have been holed up in round-the-clock meetings since Friday night.
In reaction to the latest development, shares of US Airways rose 2 cents, or 0.9%, to $2.14, adding to its 19.1% gain since Aug. 19, when union leaders first said a labor deal was near.
US Airways wants $295 million a year in wage concessions from pilots, but without them on board, the company will not be able to cut overall costs by the $1.5 billion a year it says it needs to become competitive and avoid Chapter 11.
Tensions are running high. Over the weekend, infighting broke out between the union's negotiating committee and the master executive council, or MEC, which runs the union. On Sunday, the MEC directed the negotiating committee to stay at the table to vote down management's proposal in hopes of speeding up the process. But members of the negotiating committee balked at the MEC's request, citing emotion and fatigue.
The union's MEC is pushing to find a solution as soon as possible, under the advisement of its bankers, Glanzer & Co. Three weeks ago, Glanzer sent a 26-page report to the company's 3,400 pilots, warning them that the company will be forced back into bankruptcy by mid-September as the high price of oil, competitive pressures and a too-high cost structure erode its balance sheet.
But saving US Airways might not be worth the trouble for the company's creditors and debtholders -- one of which is the U.S. government, which granted the carrier a $900 million loan guarantee after the World Trade Center attacks. According to the Glanzer report, the company "might be worth more dead than alive" to everyone except its employees.
If pilots can't get on the same page -- and fast -- US Airways will head back into bankruptcy court just a year-and-a-half after emerging from it. Management says it needs wage cuts by Sept. 30 or it will have to file for bankruptcy protection, or worse, even liquidate.
Delta Air Lines
is also trying to negotiate a cost-cutting package with union pilots, having warned of a possible bankruptcy court filing.