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United Air expects new pilot offer to add over $8 billion in costs

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(Reuters) – United Airlines Holdings Inc is offering its pilots a contract in excess of $8 billion in cumulative increases in pay and benefits over four years, in possibly the richest labor deal by a major American carrier, if ratified by the union.

The move comes at a time when pilots in North America are pushing for better pay and working conditions in their talks with company managements over new employment contracts.

Delta Air Lines’ landmark pilots contract in March, which offers $7 billion in higher pay and benefits, has put pressure on rival carriers to hand out similar deals ahead of a busy summer travel season.

Bloomberg News reported on United’s new offer earlier in the day, according to which CEO Scott Kirby also said the company has been negotiating weekly to reach a formal agreement with the union.

The Chicago-based carrier confirmed the details of the Bloomberg report.

Earlier this month, the company’s pilots union voted to authorize a strike vote – a bargaining tactic unions have been using in contract negotiations.

However, Kirby did not reveal details included in the proposal, other than to say United would top the recent deals agreed to by its two biggest rivals.

“We have disagreed with the company on the costing of items and they, in our opinion, have inflated many. We still have significant quality of work life (balance), sick leave, long-term disability issues open,” a spokesperson for the union, affiliated with the Air Line Pilots Association, told Reuters.

Meanwhile, shares of United Airlines rose 3.5% in afternoon trade, benefiting from broader market gains.

(Reporting by Priyamvada C, Nathan Gomes and Allison Lampert; Editing by Shilpi Majumdar, Shailesh Kuber and Pooja Desai)

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