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By Agnes Donato

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Sept. 5) – A number of Continental Micronesia employees on Saipan are facing almost certain furlough after the airline reportedly lost its bid for a new ground-handling service contract with Northwest Airlines.

A source who refused to be named said Northwest was awarding the service contract to neither Continental nor Pacific Oriental Inc. - the other company providing ground-handling services at the Saipan International Airport.

The Saipan Tribune tried, but failed to reach Continental staff vice president for sales marketing Walter B. Dias or POI general manager Frank Camacho.

Continental's current contract with Northwest expires this month.

The airline company is also losing its contract with Japan Airlines, which will cease operation of its regular, scheduled flights to Saipan starting Oct. 4, 2005. JAL, however, is expected to continue providing charter flights from Japan.

The impending furlough comes as no surprise to Continental employees.

In early August 2005, Continental officials advised its Saipan workers that some of them would be furloughed due to possible loss of service contracts with JAL and Northwest.

The airline had said that the furlough was going to begin around Oct. 1, 2005. It did not provide the exact number of the personnel that might be laid off.

"It is very difficult to have to furlough our hard-working co-workers," Mark Erwin, Continental Micronesia's president and chief executive officer, had said. "We will work closely with the affected employees to help them through this transition."

However, Erwin had assured the affected employees that the airline would provide them with information regarding opportunities at other Continental Micronesia and Continental locations.

Continental executives and employees had also discussed specific topics such as the workers' furlough benefits and early retirement offers for senior employees.

September 5, 2005

Saipan Tribune

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