Negotiations between American Airlines and its flight attendants union ended on Wednesday evening with no contract agreement and no new talks scheduled between the two parties.The Association of Professional Flight Attendants said it plans to move forward with a strike vote after the Fort Worth-based carrier walked out of talks at 5:30 p.m. ten hours before the scheduled end to the mediated talks."This conduct is just another demonstration of the company's bad-faith bargaining that has been in full bloom for the past 23 months," said APFA president Laura Glading. "Delay only serves the company. Each day without a new agreement equals another million dollars in the pocket of American."American, however, said it is "categorically untrue" that negotiators walked out of the federal mediation talks. Spokeswoman Missy Latham said American negotiators waited past the end of the business day on Wednesday to hear the union's counter-proposal."We agreed to review this version and the mediator recessed the session," Latham said. "We will respond to the counter-proposal at our next negotiating session."Both sides have been preparing for the possibility of a strike. APFA strike captains met for training in North Texas a few weeks ago and American has asked the Federal Aviation Administration about a shorter training schedule for possible replacement flight attendants.However, under the Railway Labor Act, unions cannot strike without first asking the National Mediation Board to declare an impasse to seek release from negotiations. If the federal board decides to release the union from mediation, a 30-day cooling off period must expire before a strike or a lockout.While the two sides have agreed to almost three-fourths of items on a new contract, they are still negotiating wages, scheduling, retiree medical and pension benefits.On Wednesday evening, American sent an e-mail update to flight attendants that detailed its latest proposal that includes:■ An 8-year agreement with a 3 percent signing bonus and three 2 percent structural wage increases in the first two years after the contract is signed.■ A gradual increase in the maximum schedule of flight attendants to 92.5 hours by the fourth year of the contract. Currently, flight attendants have a maximum monthly schedule of 77 hours domestically and 82 hours internationally.The APFA did not release details of its counter-proposal made to American on Wednesday but says it will contact the National Mediation Board to schedule a meeting to request release."Flight attendants have been down this path before and we remain unified and strong," Glading said. "Now, with no other options on the table, management has forced us to take the next step necessary to get the contract we have worked so hard for."
ANDREA AHLES, 817-390-7631