The tough talk has started at Northwest Airlines. On Mar. 1, the carrier proposed slashing labor costs by almost $900 million over the next three years. In exchange, it would give workers 20% of equity and three board seats. Cash-strapped Northwest demanded acceptance by Mar. 10, one day before it meets with its bankers. Sources close to the airline insist that if a labor deal isn't concluded by then, a Chapter 11 filing may be inevitable. NWA's unions believe the offer is still a low-ball deal. They expected to win 30% of the carrier's equity plus a veto over major strategic moves, such as route sales. They also want a commitment to debt restructuring from creditors, and no such pledge appears likely.

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