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Unions seek arbitration with American Airlines

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Labor unions at American Airlines have are seeking binding arbitration to settle negotiations over the company's cost-cutting plans.

The move would head off the chance that American could ask a bankruptcy judge to throw out its labor contracts and impose company terms on workers.

American and parent AMR Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection Nov. 29 and are seeking to cut $2 billion in annual costs, including $1.25 billion from labor through moves such as slashing 13,000 jobs.

The company has been negotiating with unions for pilots, flight attendants and ground workers since early February. Dave Bates, president of the pilots' union, said late Thursday that his group will keep negotiating with management, but a deal might not be possible.

The unions asked the National Mediation Board to offer binding arbitration to settle the standoff.

American spokesman Bruce Hicks said the company was reviewing the request and would have more comment later.

Companies in bankruptcy can seek to throw out labor contracts if they first try to negotiate with unions and show that they must change labor terms to succeed. American has warned unions that time for negotiations is running out.

American has 73,000 employees. It is the nation's third-largest carrier behind United Airlines and Delta Air Lines.