By Nick Brown and Soyoung Kim
(Reuters) - American Airlines' pilots union has asked for more time to consider the company's latest contract offer in hopes of avoiding a stalemate that could result in the unilateral imposition of interim work rules, according to two people close to the matter.
The Allied Pilots' Association asked AMR Corp
The union, which on Wednesday announced that talks had ended without a contract, now faces a court ruling, expected on Friday, that could allow AMR to impose interim work rules without the union's consent.
AMR's unions have been locked in a longstanding labor dispute with the company, which declared bankruptcy in November, saying it needs $1.25 billion in annual labor savings to become profitable.
The third-largest U.S. carrier has asked Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane for permission to abandon its current labor contracts, which would let it impose interim terms unilaterally as it negotiates new long-term deals with its unions.
Judge Lane was slated to issue a ruling on that request on Friday, but the APA has now asked AMR for more time to work out a deal, a request the airline is still considering, the people said. If the sides agreed to an extension, Judge Lane would likely hold off on issuing his ruling, they said.
The APA's board on Wednesday said it could not send AMR's offer to its members for a vote, citing a lack of specifics "in various areas" and the need for more time to analyze contract provisions and related language.
A spokesman for the APA declined to comment on Thursday.
Bruce Hicks, a spokesman for AMR, also declined to discuss a possible extension.
"I'm not going to comment on anything that may or may not happen in that regard," Hicks said.
Earlier this month, AMR's flight attendants' union said it had stopped negotiating with AMR and would take its chances on Judge Lane's ruling.
AMR's ground workers' union has been split on AMR's contract offer. Five of the union's seven work groups voted last month to accept the deal, while two voted it down and remain in talks with the company.
All three unions have said they ultimately would prefer a merger with US Airways Group
American has maintained it is focused on emerging from bankruptcy later this year as a standalone carrier but has said it would consider all options, including consolidation. Sources told Reuters earlier this month that US Airways hopes to file paperwork as early as July to clear antitrust regulations on a potential deal.
The case is In re AMR Corp et al, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-15463.
(Reporting By Nick Brown and Soyoung Kim in New York; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)