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Delta pilots open voting for strike authorization as contract negotiations falter

FILE PHOTO: Delta Air Lines planes are seen at John F. Kennedy International Airport on the July 4th weekend in Queens, New York City

By David Shepardson and Aishwarya Nair

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pilots at Delta Air Lines Inc on Friday opened voting for authorizing a strike, saying negotiations with the U.S. airline for a new contract had failed to produce an "industry-leading" agreement.

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), representing about 14,600 pilots at Delta, and the airline have been in mediated talks since February 2020. Talks paused during the pandemic and resumed in January.

The strike authorization ballot closes on October 31. ALPA noted "approval of the ballot does not mean" a strike is inevitable. Before that could happen, the National Mediation Board must first decide that additional mediation efforts would not be productive and offer the parties an opportunity to arbitrate. If either side declines, both parties enter a 30-day “cooling off” period.

Delta noted that no strike has been called, "so this authorization vote will not affect our operation for our customers. ALPA's stated purpose for the vote is simply to gain leverage in our pilot contract negotiations, which continue to progress under the normal process."

The airline added that "Delta and ALPA have made significant progress in our negotiations and have resolved more than the majority of contract sections. We are confident that the parties will reach a consensual deal that is fair and equitable, as we always have in past negotiations."

ALPA said "thousands of Delta pilots have shown solidarity on informational picket lines across the country over the last six months... This strike authorization ballot allows our members to tell management in no uncertain terms that it’s time to invest in the Delta pilots."

(Reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Nick Zieminski)