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American Airlines ground workers split on contract

(AP) DALLAS - American Airlines (AMR) ground workers split over the company's final contract offer that would spare some jobs targeted for elimination.

The Transport Workers Union said Tuesday that five work groups voted to accept the company's offer but two others, including the biggest, aircraft mechanics, rejected it.

Pilots, flight attendants and the TWU have already thrown their support to a bid by US Airways to take over American and create a bigger combined airline.

AMR Corp.'s American Airlines is trying to throw out other union contracts to cut costs as it goes through bankruptcy protection. A hearing on that move continued Tuesday in federal district court in New York.

The split in weekend voting underscored the difficult choices facing American's 73,000 employees, including whether to support the company's plan to remain independent for now or to favor an immediate merger.

The Transport Workers Union did not take a position on the contract offer, although some local officials opposed the deal.

"Some of our members found the company's last offer to be a safer bet than waiting on the (bankruptcy) court to make a decision," said TWU President James C. Little.

American filed for bankruptcy protection in November and announced in February a plan to eliminate 13,000 union jobs and cut other costs to emerge a profitable company.

Company spokesman Bruce Hicks said Tuesday's voting results would save 1,300 jobs, pay raises, early retirement incentives and other benefits for the five groups that accepted the deal. The company also had promised to save 1,900 maintenance jobs, but that offer could be dead after mechanics rejected the offer 56 percent to 44 percent.

TWU said workers whose groups approved the offer would see no changes in jobs, wages or working conditions until the bankruptcy court judge rules on American's request to throw out current labor contracts for pilots, flight attendants and mechanics. A ruling is expected in early June.

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