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US Airways, pilots say they're close to a deal on cutting wages

US Airways Group Inc. and its pilots union said they may agree by today on a plan to cut $295 million in wages and benefits to help the carrier avoid a second bankruptcy filing.

The concessions would be part of $800 million in savings US Airways is seeking from union workers by the end of this month. The Arlington, Va.-based company wants to cut $1.5 billion from yearly costs to compete with discount carriers such as Southwest Airlines Co. and JetBlue Airways Corp.

The Air Line Pilots Association's negotiating committee and the company met yesterday to discuss proposals. They said a final agreement may be crafted as early as today. The union's Master Executive Council must approve sending any plan to its members for a vote, and the group has been divided on whether to provide more concessions.

''This next meeting could very well be the discussion of a tentative agreement or a final proposal," union spokesman Jack Stephan said in a note posted on the union's website.

US Airways, the seventh-largest US carrier, has said it may file for bankruptcy protection for the second time in two years if it doesn't secure worker concessions. It's the third time in as many years that the airline has sought to reduce pay and benefits.

The pilots and airline were in almost daily talks from mid-August to Aug. 22, when negotiations broke off. Talks resumed Aug. 27.

US Airways also is in talks with unions for its flight attendants and customer service and reservations agents.

The union for its mechanics and baggage handlers has not agreed to talks, but offered cost-cutting proposals US Airways said would actually increase its spending.

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