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By Natalie J. Quinata

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Sept. 22) – Continental Airlines and its pilots' union have entered into an unprecedented partnership agreement.

The new agreement, which takes effect throughout Continental Airlines, allows 322 pilots who were furloughed during the industry's economic crisis to be reinstated, said Capt. Dale Surdick, chairman for the pilots' union.

It was unclear as of press time whether any of those being reinstated are based on Guam. Continental Micronesia already has 116 Guam-based pilots, according to information at a press conference yesterday on Guam.

The document, which has been in the making for more than a year, was signed yesterday at the Continental Presidents Club at the Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam.

"This is not a contract, but a partnership with the Continental Airlines Air Line Pilots Association (CAL ALPA)," Surdick said.

Continental is the first passenger airline to have ratified union-management relations internally, and more importantly, nonconfrontationally, both sides said. Airline officials hope to achieve a new approach to labor and management relations.

"This is an open-door policy where management and union officials shake hands and say we're not messing around anymore," said Ralph Freeman, director of flight operations for Continental Micronesia.

The union-management partnership secures an open-door atmosphere that allows input from the union to be directed all the way through to Continental's top corporate officials in Houston, Texas, officials at the press conference said.

Continental pilot 1st Officer Steve Heckler said the agreement is "an open, free flow of communication with the management that serves the purpose of solving problems through economic hardship."

The airline industry has been troubled by high costs of fuel and dampened demand for air travel after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Both management and union officials said they agree that the new partnership allows the company to work together and forge ahead through the ongoing economic hardship.

The relationship creates an open atmosphere that protects the rights of the employees while enabling the company to implement cost savings initiatives, both sides at the press conference said.

September 22, 2004

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