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Airline injunction likely stays

| Friday, Oct. 24, 2003

U.S. District Judge Robert Cindrich said Thursday that he is not inclined to lift his earlier injunction that stops US Airways from performing heavy maintenance work for 10 of the airline's Airbus jets in Alabama.

"All the relief that would have been granted would be lost," said the judge during a hearing on a request by the airline asking Cindrich to lift the injunction. He did not indicate when he might decide on lifting the order.

The International Association of Machinists Local 1976, Pittsburgh, which represents 5,000 US Airways mechanics, including 2,000 at Pittsburgh International Airport had sought the injunction, which was issued Monday. About 2,500 union mechanics are on layoff.

The injunction, if it remains, will only result in grounded planes and canceled flights during the holiday season, said US Airways attorney Robert A. Siegel, a labor lawyer of the Los Angeles law firm, O'Melveny & Myers.

He told Cindrich the airline won't be able recall the laid-off Pittsburgh workers in time to complete Airbus maintenance that is required by the time the jets are 5 years old.

US Airways also is appealing Cindrich's injunction to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. Siegel said both the airline and the union have agreed to expedite the appeals process.

The first two Airbuses -- with one of them already disassembled -- are in Mobile, Ala., where the airline has contracted Singapore Technologies (ST) Mobile Aerospace Engineering Inc. to do the work. The remaining eight were scheduled to arrive in Alabama over the next eight weeks. Six to 10 more of the airline's Airbus fleet of about 120 planes will be due for heavy maintenance checks next September.

The airline has said that neither of its hubs in Pittsburgh and Charlotte can accommodate the heavy maintenance for Airbuses and hiring an outside contractor is allowed under the union contract. The union has said airline has the capacity to do the work.

"What the union wants is to do this work," said David Neigus, associate general counsel for IAM. As many as 200 laid-off mechanics could be recalled if Airbus overhauls are done in-house.

The injunction constitutes a no-win situation for the airline and the union, Siegel said. Union workers have not been recalled and the work is not being done.

Cindrich said that argument merited consideration "from a pragmatic standpoint," although he voiced skepticism on nearly every other argument the airline made.

Siegel also asked the judge to consider modifying the injunction to allow the maintenance of the two jets parked in Alabama to proceed.

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