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Delta won't budge on pilot concessions

WASHINGTON -- Delta Air Lines Inc. won't lower the concessions it is seeking from its pilots any further, but would be willing to discuss concerns pilots have about the possible termination of their defined benefit pension plan, the carrier's chief financial officer said in an interview yesterday.

Following the fourth day of two weeks of hearings before an arbitration panel that will decide whether to allow the company to throw out its pilot contract, Edward Bastian made the most definitive statement to date about what Delta is willing to accept and what it isn't.

The comments came even as the chairman of the union's executive committee, Lee Moak, said in an interview that anyone who doubts the pilots' resolve to strike if their contract is voided is mistaken.

The ''$305 million is nonnegotiable because that's what our minimum needs are to survive as a company," Bastian said.

Regarding the pilots' pension and other changes, ''those are things to be discussed in the room," Bastian said.

The arbitration panel must decide by April 15 on Delta's motion to reject its pilot contract.

The company and union have not had any negotiation sessions since the hearings in Washington began on Monday. While both sides say they are willing to meet, no sessions have been scheduled. Top union and company officials are staying in the same hotel.

''It takes two parties," Bastian said. ''We're here and they know where we're at."

Moak said the company should take the union's stance seriously and be more open to negotiations on all terms being discussed.

''If management's action is to destroy the airline, I can't control them," Moak said.

He said he hopes and believes cooler heads will prevail but he said whether that happens is up to the company.

''I look at it unemotionally," Moak said. ''Whatever action they take, we are going to respond appropriately."

He reiterated the union will strike if its contract is rejected. Asked if Delta will go out of business, Moak said he is encouraging people to book flights and stick with the airline.

But he also said the pilots won't back down in the fight over their pay, benefits, and pensions.

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