A potential merger of Delta and Northwest airlines is on hold while pilots try to work out a seniority agreement. The proposed merger is complicated by the fact that Atlanta-based Delta has a younger work force than Northwest, which is based in Eagan, Minn.
Delta CEO Richard Anderson wrote to employees in February saying the airline was still seeking a “potential transaction that meets all of our principles,” including protecting “the seniority of our people.”
Northwest CEO Douglas Steenland sent out a similar note, saying he thought mergers among air carriers were “inevitable,” but any deal would need to “provide greater long-term security and growth opportunities for our employees.”
Disputes over how to merge seniority lists scuttled a 2005 merger attempt between US Airways and America West, bringing out what some have called “fratricidal tendencies” among pilots.
Delta and Northwest no doubt had that fiasco in mind when they asked pilots to strike a seniority agreement before making any merger announcements.
A merger based strictly on date of hire would favor Northwest pilots. One that alternated between the two groups, shuffling them together, would favor Delta.
Perhaps the unions in this case will be able to come up with a third alternative.
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