Delta Pilots Authorize Strike

Atlanta -- Delta Air Lines pilots yesterday voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike against the airline, which is seeking further wage and benefit concessions from the pilots.

"The Delta pilots will strike if their contract is rejected," vowed Lee Moak, chairman of the pilots' negotiating committee and himself a Delta pilot.

In his statement, Moak was referring to an arbitration panel, which must rule by April 15 on Delta's request to void the current contract between the airline and the pilots.

Delta, which declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September, has proposed compensation reductions of up to $325 million, including an 18-percent pay cut. The airline has already stopped fully funding the pilots' pension plan.

In 2004, the pilots agreed to a five-year contract, in which they gave wage and benefit concessions totaling $1 billion, including a 32-percent wage cut.

More than 90 percent of 5,800 Delta pilots eligible to vote approved the measure. The pilots belong to the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents 62,000 pilots at 39 airlines in the United States and Canada.