AP Airlines Writer
DALLAS (AP) - Pilots for American Airlines and US Airways are talking about terms for a possible labor deal if the two airlines merge.
Both groups of pilots would get raises on the day of a merger, said James Ray, a spokesman for US Airways pilots. After three years, he said, they would earn pay similar to that of pilots for Delta Air Lines Inc., whose recent contract is considered tops in the industry.
The terms are based on the outline of a deal in April between US Airways and pilots at American. Pilots for both airlines are now discussing changes to that outline.
Ray said that his union's board could decide this week whether to ask US Airways pilots to ratify the changes, which would also need approval by American's pilots.
The talks come as US Airways Group Inc. continues to press for a merger with American that would put its executives in charge of the combined company. US Airways, based in Tempe, Ariz., already reached contingent agreements in April with unions at American, which filed for bankruptcy protection in November.
On Wednesday, US Airways CEO Doug Parker flew to Dallas-Fort Worth to meet the new acting president of the Allied Pilots Association. A spokesman for the American union said they talked about industry consolidation.
Thomas Horton, the CEO of American parent AMR Corp., was dismissive of US Airways' overtures for several months, preferring that AMR emerge from bankruptcy protection on its own. Under pressure from creditors, however, AMR has started exploring merger options, including with US Airways, that creditors could compare to an independent AMR.
Separately on Wednesday, the American pilots' union said it would hold a strike-authorization vote if American tried to use the bankruptcy process to throw out the pilots' contract and impose deeper cuts in benefits and work rules.
A hearing on American's request to cancel the pilots' contract is scheduled for Sept. 4 before a federal bankruptcy judge in New York.
Federal law makes it difficult for airline unions to legally strike. In 2007, a federal appeals court blocked a planned strike by flight attendants at Northwest Airlines after the airline threw out the union's contract as part of its bankruptcy case.
Union spokesman Gregg Overman said pilots would strike only if they had legal permission from the National Mediation Board, but Wednesday's declaration showed labor's resolve.
"Our pilots are looking to us for leadership to resist any move by management to reject our contract," Overman said. He said the union still wants to negotiate with the company.
The company warned against a strike.
"Any form of job action by pilots would be unlawful, either before or after a decision by the court on the company's motion" to throw out their contract, said Bruce Hicks, a spokesman for Fort Worth-based AMR.
AMR is trying to slash annual labor costs by about $1 billion and return to profitability after losing more than $10 billion since 2001.
American won concessions in new contracts covering about 40,000 ground workers and flight attendants, but American's 8,000 active pilots risked even deeper cost-cutting measures by rejecting a company offer this month.
AP Airlines Writer Joshua Freed in Minneapolis contributed to this report.
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