American, ground workers reach tentative contract

DALLAS — American Airlines said Friday it has reached a tentative contract agreement with about 10,600 ground workers.

A union official said workers will have to weigh the economy, past wage concessions and terms of the deal before deciding whether to ratify the agreement.

The union said the proposed contract includes pay raises, a signing bonus and retiree health benefits for workers over 50, and would keep a traditional pension plan for current workers. In negotiations with other workers, American has proposed that new hires get 401(k) retirement plans instead of pensions.

The deal faces a July ratification vote by the employees, who handle baggage, clean aircraft and do other ground chores. They are represented by the Transport Workers Union, or TWU.

American previously announced tentative deals with mechanics and other ground workers. It is still negotiating with flight attendants and pilots. The attendants have asked federal mediators to give them permission to strike after a 30-day cooling-off period, but the officials haven't granted the union's request.

TWU official Tim Gillespie said it was clear that federal officials wouldn't allow ground workers to withdraw from mediation and begin a strike countdown unless they voted on the company's contract proposal. He said workers would have to consider factors such as the economy and 2003 concessions before deciding how to vote.

American Airlines, a unit of AMR Corp., has more than 50,000 unionized employees.