Saturday, August 20, 2005

The plane truth about the Northwest strike

Mechanics at Northwest Airlines today staged their first major walkout in seven years:

The union mechanics walked out rather than take pay cuts and layoffs that would reduce their ranks almost by half. They said they don't believe the replacements will be able to maintain the fleet, the oldest among domestic airlines.

Saturday afternoon, Northwest was already facing at least two maintenance jobs in Detroit, one of its hubs.

One Northwest plane blew out four tires as it landed on a runway, and another made an emergency landing after flight attendants reported smoke in the cabin. No injuries were reported in either incident. The airline said the cause of the blow-out was likely "an anti-skid braking issue," the vapor appeared to be an air conditioning system problem, and neither had anything to do with the strike.

Hmmmmmm... four tires at once? That's a lot of malfunctioning rubber. But the fun doesn't end there:

Myers said there were reports from Detroit on Friday that some of the tractors used to push airplanes back from the gate had damage to their ignitions, and that keys were broken off in the locks of some jetways. But "we didn't see anything done to aircraft that would pose a safety threat," he said.

This is why I have never liked unions. Their tactics of sabotage and intimidation are childish at best and often-times outright dangerous. Furthermore the union negotiators usually end up screwing the very workers they claim to be protecting. This walkout will probably result in the loss of all of the mechanics' jobs whereas half of them could have stayed on without the strike.

However, having said that, there is still one question that bothers me: why is the top brass at Northwest not willing to cut their own pay? Don't get me wrong -- I hate class envy as much as the next conservative -- but I'm just looking at it from a financial and practical standpoint. A 25% cut across the board would reduce the bottom line -- possibly without having to lay anyone off -- and have the added benefit of keeping employee morale at a reasonable level.

Then again, I'm just a rabbit. Rabbits sometimes oversimplify. That's why you don't see them running airlines.