MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Northwest Airlines Corp. and its striking mechanics said yesterday that they will meet, although neither side described the talks as negotiations.

Northwest mechanics, cleaners and custodians have been on strike since Aug. 20, although Northwest has kept flying without them. The last round of talks broke off Sept. 11. Northwest filed for bankruptcy protection three days later.

A hotline for the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association said the union negotiating committee and the airline agreed to meet “for the purpose of reviewing where the parties stand on the open issues related to the current strike, and to determine whether the open issues can be resolved.”

“The parties have agreed to meet Thursday to review the status of bargaining and what options remain, if any, for resolution of the ongoing strike,” Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said.

Northwest is Michigan’s leading passenger air carrier, with a hub at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Earlier talks have been mediated. Ebenhoch said there were no plans for a mediator to attend tomorrow’s meeting, although he said Northwest wouldn’t object.

AMFA negotiations spokesman Jeff Mathews declined to comment.

Before the strike, Northwest employed about 4,400 mechanics, cleaners and custodians.

Its last offer before talks broke off would have kept just 1,080 mechanics. Northwest shifted many of the other jobs to contractors, and said it began hiring permanent replacements on Sept. 13.

On Monday, AMFA said about 50 of its members had crossed the picket line and returned to work.

Union officials said at the time that the key differences were over severance pay and work rules. Negotiator Rich Nygaard has also said Northwest sought a five-year contract with no raises, while the union wanted a three-year deal with two raises.

Northwest’s demands have increased since the strike began. It originally sought $176 million in concessions, but increased that to $203 million in the last round of talks. It wants $1.4 billion from all of its workers, and other unions have said they expect Northwest to ask the bankruptcy court judge to impose its terms if they don’t negotiate cuts soon.

 

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