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Delta pilots accept pay cut

Agreement could save airline $143m

Delta Air Lines Inc. pilots ratified an interim agreement with the bankrupt carrier that will save the company $143 million annually, while negotiators continue talks on a final contract.

The vote was 58 percent in favor of the agreement, said Curly Culp, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association. The union, which represents about 6,000 pilots at Atlanta-based Delta, said the interim agreement includes a 14 percent pay cut.

Delta initially demanded annual concessions of $325 million from the pilots, including a 19.5 percent pay cut. The airline, operating in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since September, has said it needs reductions to compete with discount carriers such as Southwest Airlines Co. and with rivals like Northwest Airlines Corp. that are also cutting costs while in bankruptcy.

''Given the critical nature of our financial situation, this provides much-needed financial relief while we seek to reach a comprehensive agreement with" the pilots association, Gerald Grinstein, Delta's chief executive, said in a statement.

Delta, the third-largest US airline, and the pilots union are trying to settle on a final contract by March. If they can't agree, a neutral panel will decide whether the company can scrap the current contract. The interim agreement, reached Dec. 11, ended a bankruptcy court hearing in which the judge would have ruled on whether to let Delta scrap the contract.

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