AP News

United pilots say contract talks stalled

Pilots at United Airlines are saying that talks have stalled again, just weeks after the union and the airline said they had the beginnings of a deal.

United Continental Holdings Inc. has been negotiating for a joint union contract to cover pilots who came from United and Continental in their 2010 merger. On Aug. 3 they said they had agreed to the outlines of a deal, including pay raises and better job protections and benefits, although they still needed to work out the details.

Jay Heppner, the leader of the United pilots, complained in a Wednesday letter to the National Mediation Board that United management has been "injecting terms into previously agreed-to provisions making them now unacceptable." The letter was to NMB member Linda Puchala, who was running the talks.

His letter also repeated a request to offer arbitration, which is one step on the long road toward getting government permission for a strike, and is often the point at which airline labor deals get done. One step for getting that arbitration offer "should include bad faith bargaining. We certainly seem to be at that point," the letter said.

Puchala declined to comment on the letter. The airline issued a statement saying, "We disagree with the inaccurate characterization by Captain Heppner." It declined to comment further because, it said, the National Mediation Board has asked both sides not to talk to the media about the negotiations.

A negotiations update from the airline dated Tuesday said "issues have surfaced" while the language for the agreement was being drafted, but said the company and the union "are dealing with them expeditiously and are jointly focused on concluding this phase of the process."

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