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Pan Am pilots cross pickets, saying strike cost outweighs gain

More Pan American World Airways planes were flying Thursday after pilots began crossing picket lines of mechanics and other employees in a week-long strike by the Transport Workers Union (TWU). James B. MacQuarrie, chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association's Pam Am Council, said the decision to return was made ``after weighing the cost of a prolonged strike against the value of those few gains left to be achieved.''

``Our efforts will now shift to restoring normal service to the airline as promptly as possible,'' the ALPA official said.

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Both the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and TWU are affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The pilots, highest paid among unionized airline employees, have often acted independently of other unions in the industry.

Pan Am chairman C. Edward Acker commended the pilots for ``once again . . . demonstrating their support for the welfare of the company.'' He said that with 1,478 pilots returning, Pan Am will be able to handle 50 percent of its normal passenger load, an increase from 33 percent, with expanded overseas services and a resumption of domestic flights.

The TWU called the pilots' action ``a disappointment, to say the least,'' and said the strike ``will continue in full force.'' It charged the use of replacement mechanics and other plan workers might constitute a hazard -- a statement Pan Am branded as ``absolutely false.''

The ALPA is the only one of five Pan Am unions with a newly negotiated contract. The pilots settled Feb. 26 in a compromise providing that 25.7 percent in wage increases deferred to Jan. 1 will be paid over the next 32 months.

A TWU official had said earlier that support by the pilots would be crucial to the success of the strike by its 5,700 members employed by Pan Am.

The Flight Engineers International Association, an AFL-CIO union with close ties to the pilots, has a no-strike clause in its Pan Am contract, now being renegotiated. Its 800 members may follow pilots back to work.

The Independent Union of Flight Attendants supports the strike, but many of its 5,000 members are reportedly reluctant to continue the walkout that could cost half its members' jobs. Pan Am is reported prepared to hire as many as 2,500 foreign flight attendants as replacements on international flights.

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The flight attendants and Pan Am members under International Brotherhood of Teamsters have set an April 1 strike deadlines, so the carrier may face further labor problems.

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