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Panel: US Airways violated contract by moving maintenance

PITTSBURGH — US Airways violated a contract with its mechanics when it transferred maintenance work for some of its Airbus jets to Alabama, according to an arbitration panel that ordered the work to be returned to Pittsburgh.

Friday's ruling by the three-member arbitration panel ends a year of legal wrangling over the Arlington, Va.-based airline's decision to farm out maintenance of 10 of its Airbus jets to Singapore Technologies Mobile Aerospace Engineering Inc. of Mobile, Ala.

"This decision reaffirms 55 years of contract language. US Airways illegally outsourced Airbus work just months after IAM members provided $1.5 billion in savings to rescue the airline and allow it to emerge from its first bankruptcy," said Robert Roach, general vice president of transportation for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Officials with the union, which represents about 4,800 US Airways mechanics, among them about 2,000 at Pittsburgh International Airport, had argued that the shift would violate workers' contracts.

US Airways had said it needed to shift the work to the Alabama company because it lacked the buildings and equipment needed to overhaul the aircraft and service the rest of its fleet in Pittsburgh.

The union appealed to a Pittsburgh federal judge, who issued an injunction in October 2003 against the airline, which had been seeking to resolve the dispute through arbitration. U.S. Airways appealed that ruling to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia which ordered arbitration.

Despite the panel's ruling, US Airways spokesman David Castelveter said the airline can't afford to bring the work back to Pittsburgh.

"With our company in bankruptcy, we simply don't have the financial ability to immediately acquire new hangar space and hire more employees," Castelveter said.

The airline plans to ask a court to allow it to contract with a vendor to maintain the planes, Castelveter said.


On the Net:

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers: www.iamaw.org/

US Airways: www.usairways.com