Eastern Airlines pilots, accusing Chairman Frank Lorenzo of "gross mismanagement and incompetence," have asked a bankruptcy judge to appoint an independent trustee to run the strike-crippled carrier.
The request Tuesday by the Air Line Pilots Association coincided with the union's approval of $2,400-a-month strike pay for the 3,600 pilots, bolstered by a U.S. appeals court's refusal to force them back to work.In other developments in the 12-day-old strike by the airline's 8,500-member Machinist union:
- A U.S. House vote was expected Wednesday on a proposal to put striking workers back on the job while a federal review panel studies the 17-month-old contract stalemate. But the legislation, even if passed, isn't given much chance of surviving a presidential veto.
- The airline, which struggled to run less than 10 percent of its pre-strike schedule, won bankruptcy court approval Tuesday for a plan to help ticket holders grounded by the walkout.
- In a show of support with Eastern pilots, the pilots' union announced its 41,000 members at 47 airlines will be assessed $300 each to help pay for the strike pay package. The union also agreed to refuse to fly planes and routes purchased from Eastern unless Eastern pilots are hired for the work.
- The Machinists, whose strike began March 4 when they refused to accept $125 million in concessions, asked the bankruptcy court to approve $8 million in paychecks due last Friday and $1 million in insurance premiums due for February coverage.
In papers filed Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York, the pilots charged that Lorenzo, chairman of Eastern's parent Texas Air Corp., intends to dismantle Eastern.
"Lorenzo's stripping of Eastern's valuable assets constitutes, at a minimum, gross mismanagement and incompetence," the pilots union said.
The charge was denied by the Miami-based carrier, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Thursday.
"The intention is to keep the airline flying," said Eastern spokesman Art Kent. "That is the point. We have said that, if necessary, assets will be sold to maintain liquidity."
Eastern, which reported about 100 flights Tuesday, is seeking to sell its profitable Northeast shuttle to billionaire Donald Trump for $365 million.
It is not known when U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland will rule on the request for a trustee.
With Eastern ticket holders clamoring for refunds, the carrier announced an estimated $200 million compensation package that provides for some first-class upgrades and travel vouchers.