The Transportation Department announced Wednesday Eastern Airlines signed a pact with its unions to ease the carrier's severe labor-management tensions, which the department warned could jeopardize safety.
Former Labor Secretary William Brock, who helped draft the agreement, said it calls for the creation of local safety committees consisting of management and union officials and possibly neutral third party arbitrators.The pact also resolves a number of specific employee relations disputes that had been aggravating the tensions between Eastern and its union.
At a news conference with Transportation Secretary James Burnley, Brock said the agreement sets up a process for the unions and management to communicate, hopefully easing tensions that had become "unbelieveable."
But Brock said success of the agreement depends on the commitment of labor and management leaders, who he blamed for the escalation of tensions.
Brock met with Texas Air Chairman Frank Lorenzo and Eastern Airlines' union officials Tuesday to work on the agreement. Texas Air is the parent company of Eastern.
But the meeting at the Transportation Department broke up without final approval of the pact, intended to keep Eastern's strained labor situation from causing safety violations.
The Transportation Department concluded last month, after an unprecedented safety investigation of Texas Air and its Eastern and Continental Airlines subsidiaries, that Eastern was not unsafe - but warned that the bitter dispute between Lorenzo and the unions eventually could erode safety.
Brock was brought in as a mediator last month by Burnley.