1/24/97 -- 4:49 PM

American Pilots,0571


DALLAS (AP) - Talks on a contract under negotiation for more than two years may come down to five days of mediation to avert a strike by American Airlines' pilots.

American Airlines parent company AMR Corp. and the Allied Pilots Association scheduled a ``super mediation'' session in Washington starting Feb. 10, the final week of a cooling-off period that expires at 12:01 a.m. EST on Feb. 15.

``We have volunteered a willingness to meet with management before super mediation,'' said APA spokesman Gregg Overman. ``They have not similarly indicated an interest in meeting.''

Chris Chiames, managing director of public relations at American, said the airline believes more would be gained from discussions at the end of the 30-day cooling off period.

The union has vowed to strike if the company doesn't come up with a better contract offer on wages and job security. Sixty-one percent of its membership rejected a four-year deal offered by the company earlier this month.

The vote has put in limbo American's plans to buy 103 new Boeing jets, worth $6.6 billion.

American pilots' contract became open to amendments on Aug. 31, 1994. The two sides have been bargaining since then.

The Fort Worth-based company and the union said Friday the ``super mediation'' session would be held in Washington under the auspices of the National Mediation Board.

The company has offered to put the dispute to the NMB for binding arbitration, which means a mediator would impose a settlement on the two parties.

So far, the union has not publicly accepted or declined arbitration. The airline had set a deadline of Jan. 15 for the pilots to make a decision. When the APA did not do so, the airline rejected arbitration and the cooling-off period began.

``We didn't think this was a difficult choice. The APA should be able to make a decision. Everyone understood the deadline we put out there,'' Chiames said.

The airline would still agree to binding arbitration, he said.

Both sides have been warning employees of a possible strike, and both give a 60-day duration as an example.

In a telephone hotline message, APA president James Sovich said the pilots would not shy away from a strike and urged members to prepare to be off the job for 30 to 60 days.

Overman said the 60-day number has no significance, although a strike time limit would be set.

Chiames said the company's reference to a 60-day strike in a letter to cockpit crew members was arbitrary. ``We don't want a strike of 60 days. We don't want a strike,'' he said.

The company letter said American ``cannot accept terms that would destroy the company's ability to compete. Unfortunately, the only option we have been offered is a work stoppage.''

The contract rejected by the pilots would have provided a 3 percent increase this year and a 2 percent raise in 1999.

Union leaders made a counter offer calling for 3 percent pay raises each year through 1999 and a 2 percent increase in 2000.

APA also wants any regional jets to be flown by American Airlines' pilots. The rejected agreement would have let AMR buy small jets, with some limitations, to be flown by American's commuter affiliate American Eagle.

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