Judge blocks threatened strike at Mesaba Aviation

(AP) A bankruptcy judge on Monday blocked a strike by unions at Mesaba Aviation Inc., clearing the way for the feeder for Northwest Airlines Corp. to impose pay cuts later this week.

Mesaba, which has been reorganizing under bankruptcy protection for a year, had said a strike would probably put it out of business. On Monday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Gregory Kishel agreed. Bankruptcy Judge Gregory Kishel enjoined Mesaba's pilots, flight attendants and mechanics from encouraging, permitting or taking any type of work stoppage action, including a strike, "sick-out, slow-down or other concerted refusal to perform normal employment duties."

His decision leaves Mesaba free to cut employee pay on Thursday without fear of a crippling work stoppage. Mesaba had said previously that a walkout would kill the airline.

Mesaba has said it needs the pay cuts so it can compete with other regional carriers for business from Northwest. It has been backed into a corner by a combination of its fear of a strike if it makes cuts unilaterally, and a threat by its creditors to liquidate the company if it doesn't achieve those cuts.

Mesaba's pilots, flight attendants and mechanics argued in court last week that the grave consequences of a potential strike don't mean it should be blocked. They cited the Norris-LaGuardia Act, a piece of labor law that they argued generally bars judges from blocking strikes, even when the nation's transportation system is threatened.

Mesaba argued that Kishel could block a strike that would violate the Railway Labor Act, as they said this one would.

Mesaba, a unit of MAIR Holdings Inc., filed for bankruptcy protection in October 2005, about a month after Northwest - its only major customer - did the same thing. The carrier once boasted a fleet of roughly 100 aircraft, including regional jets, but Northwest has slashed that to 49 prop-driven Saabs. Mesaba flies to about 86 cities, funneling passengers into Northwest hubs in Minneapolis, Detroit and Memphis.