Feds order Northwest management, union to resume talks

The simmering dispute between Northwest and its flight attendants union has generated rulings, injunctions and counter-injunctions from no fewer than three judges. The warring parties have now heard from yet another authoritative body: the National Mediation Board (NMB).

On Tuesday, the NMB ordered the two sides—which have had no meaningful negotiations since July—to return to the bargaining table and resume efforts to agree on a new contract.

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A Reuters report on the situation suggested that progress was unlikely in spite of the NMB's prodding, and quoted an industry analyst who predicted that the NMB would have no choice but to allow the attendants to strike, after the mandatory 30-day cooling-off period.

According to the report, "If the NMB were to cease mediation, the dispute could be sent to arbitration. If either side rejects arbitration, the two parties must submit to a 30-day 'cooling off' period. The AFA (Association of Flight Attendants) says it would have the legal right to strike if no deal is reached by the end of that period."

The airline questions the AFA's right to strike and has secured an injunction prohibiting them from doing so. The attendants have appealed that ruling and are awaiting a judge's decision.

The saga continues.

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