Struggling legacy airlines like United and US Airways have successfully wrung contract concessions from their employee unions this year. Northwest Airlines is next, and appears to be taking no chances. It's advertising for replacement flight attendants, just in case the contract talks stall.
In a posting on Monster.com, Northwest is advertising for candidates to enroll in a paid training program for flight attendant certification. Candidates are urged to apply by June 12.
"Individuals who successfully complete Flight Attendant training may be offered employment in the event of a labor dispute or strike," the posting says.
The recruitment drive follows last month's move by Northwest to recall all remaining furloughed flight attendants by the end of July. The Professional Flight Attendants Association says it was notified of the company's plan in late May, and said it expects "a contentious summer of labor negotiations."
The union says the company has caused attrition in the flight attendant ranks by raising fear that the company will attempt to freeze current pension benefits. At the time, union president Guy Meek charged the company's "propagandizing efforts" were needlessly scaring flight attendants into early retirement.
Union officials say the latest Northwest recruitment effort appears to be another campaign of intimidation, just as the two sides are preparing to sit down at the negotiating table. The airline is beginning labor talks with three of its union, seeking over $1 billion a year in labor cost reductions.
Northwest, meanwhile, says the unions are the ones engaging in sabre-rattling.
"Northwest is aware of significant strike planning activity underway at several of its unions," the airline said. "If one of its unions chooses to strike the carrier or engage in job actions with the intent of causing disruption at some point in the future, Northwest must be prepared to protect its operations," the statement said.