Because the more than 600 Eastern Airlines employees in Salt Lake City are non-union, a strike against the airline wouldn't affect the local operation.

Bob Burquist, director of reservation and telephone sales for Eastern's Western Region - the company's only reservation center west of the Mississippi - said members of Eastern's machinists union plan a strike for 12:01 a.m. EST Saturday, but negotiators are trying to reach an agreement by 10 p.m.If that doesn't happen, the company intends to "fly through" the strike using replacements for union employees.

Besides the reservation center, Eastern has about 20 employees at the Salt Lake International Airport who are ticket takers and gate personnel.

Eastern has only two flights per day out of Salt Lake City. The flights carry 2,000 passengers per month through Denver with connections to the Southeast and Miami areas.

Burquist said all union employees have been given a holiday until after the midnight deadline passes to make certain that non-union employees are safe and to prevent sabotage. He said 105 employees from the reservation center volunteered to fly to Atlanta, Miami and Boston to work as baggage handlers and aircraft cleaners in the event a strike occurs.

Meanwhile, Utah's Republican congressmen also are urging President Bush not to extend the 30-day "cooling off" period.

Sens. Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch and Reps. Jim Hansen and Howard Nielson wrote Bush after a delegation of pro-company Eastern employees visited the delegation Thursday.

The Republicans' letter said, "There are 650 reservationists working in Utah for Eastern Airlines whose jobs are threatened by the proposed extension. They have signed petitions to that effect which we have enclosed."

The letter added, "The labor dispute between Eastern Airlines and the Eastern machinists has already seriously damaged the financial standing of the airline. The carrier is incurring losses of about $1 million a day under the current cooling-off period.

"While an extension of the cooling-off period would not guarantee successful negotiations between Eastern Airlines and the International Association of Machinists, it would virtually determine the financial ruin of the airline." *****



Employees: 602.

Reservation calls per day: 25,000.

Flights per day: Two to Denver that connect with the Southeast and Miami.

Passengers per month: 2,000.

Utah employees who have volunteered to work as baggage handlers or aircraft cleaners if the strike occurs: 105.

Time strike would take effect in Salt Lake City if it is called: 10 p.m. Friday.