Union allowed to file brief in American, U.S. Airways merger case

Justice Department opposes agreement which would bump staff wages 4.3 per cent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A key union that supports U.S. Airways' planned merger with American Airlines can weigh in on the court fight to stop the deal, the judge hearing a government challenge to the combination said on Wednesday.

The Transport Workers Union, which represents ground workers at American Airlines, had originally asked to be an intervenor in the lawsuit, which would have allowed it to voice opinions to protect its members' rights.

The Justice Department and the two airlines both objected, partly on the grounds that the union might slow the case. Companies contemplating mergers prefer to move quickly since delays can hamper planning and are expensive.

The union relented and asked instead to file a brief in the case. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly agreed in a two-page order.

Trial in the case is to begin on Nov. 25.

In January, the union reached an agreement with US Airways and American that would grant immediate raises of 4.3 per cent once the two carriers merge.

The union represents more than 20,000 workers at American, including flight simulator technicians, fleet service clerks, dispatchers, ground school instructors and maintenance control technicians.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit in August to stop the deal, saying it would lead to higher prices.

The complaint focuses on Reagan National Airport near Washington, D.C., where the two carriers control a combined 69 per cent of takeoff and landing slots. It also listed more than 1,000 different routes where, between them, the two airlines dominate the market.

The airlines have defended the proposed merger, saying it would create $500 million in savings to consumers annually by creating a stronger competitor to Delta Air Lines and United Continental Holdings.

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