(Reuters) - Pilot union leaders at United Continental Holdings (UAL.N), the parent of United Airlines, called o n Thursday for members to hold a vote on whether to strike over stalled contract talks.
The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), representing pilots who flew for old United and Continental Airlines before the two merged in 2010, said it had not set a date for any vote.
“There has been more than ample time to reach agreement on a new contract. While a strike is never the pilots’ preference for the path to reaching agreement, we are more than willing to use every tool at our disposal,” said Jay Pierce, chairman of the ALPA unit representing Continental pilots.
A work stoppage would be far from certain at the world’s largest airline even if leadership received authorization from members to call a strike.
Federal law makes it difficult for airline unions to strike and the White House can intervene to stop any walkout in the interest of keeping U.S. commerce moving.
But discord among pilots from both the United and Continental work groups is not a good sign for management, which has a lot riding on a smooth integration of its operations following consolidation.
Airlines are wrestling with high fuel prices, stiffer competition and a struggling economy.
United lost $448 million in the first quarter, partly due to expenses related to merger integration.
Reporting by John Crawley; Editing by Gary Hill and David Gregorio