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Though deal is elusive, strike at Northwest not a sure thing... yet
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Northwest's vice president for labor relations, Julie Hagenshowers, told reporters on the way into Thursday afternoon's talks that even large financial gaps can close in the final hours of negotiations. (MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik)
Negotiators for Northwest and its mechanics union are back at the table in Washington after a long day on Wednesday. Both sides say they remain committed to working right up until Friday night's strike deadline if that's what it takes to get a deal.

St. Paul, Minn. — Union leaders say it's unfortunate Northwest values their latest proposal, which the mechanics say is worth $176 million, at just $100 million.

The union executives say that their new offer would save Northwest exactly what the airline says it needs in annual cost reductions from the mechanics.

Union negotiating team spokesman Jeff Matthews would say only that the plan would preserve the jobs of all currrent mechanics' union workers.

"The proposal that we presented them does save them $176 million a year and, no, I can not discuss anymore details than that right now," he said.

Northwest says its initial analysis of the new proposal estimates it would cut costs by about $100 million, far less than the union's claim.

It's not the first time the airline has challenged the value of mechanics' union cost-cutting proposals. Northwest earlier said a plan the union claimed would save almost $144 million would reduce costs by $87 million.

Still the mechanics say the competing valuations are part of the negotiating process.

Northwest's vice president for labor relations, Julie Hagenshowers, told reporters on the way into Thursday afternoon's talks that even large financial gaps can close in the final hours of negotiations. Hagenshouwers says Northwest wants an angreement.

"Remaining at the table is the important thing now and continuing to work toward a consentual agreement that meets the needs of both parties," she said.

Negotiators for the airline and union worked for almost 15 hours on Wednesday and judging from their mid-afternoon start on Thursday, they'll negotiate late into Thursday.

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