Boeing Co. production workers who ended a 69-day strike last week got good news Tuesday - the first assembly line increase in about five years.
Production by the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial jets, about 20 planes a month before the strike began Oct. 6, will rise to 22.5 in the fourth quarter of 1996 and 24 by early 1997, company officials said.
Boeing, which has about 60 percent of the market, will produce more of each model next year. Even a slowdown in production of Boeing’s slowest-selling plane, the 757, is being postponed three months.
“It reflects the turnaround that our airline customers are experiencing and underscores the positive long-term outlook for our industry,” said Ron Woodard, president of Boeing Commercial Airplane Group. “For Boeing to take advantage of this changing marketplance, we will continue our efforts to reduce costs and cycle times and to increase quality.”
The turnaround was especially marked for Boeing’s smallest planes, the 737s. Instead of going from seven planes a month to five in the fourth quarter of 1996 as planned, 737 production is being increased to eight and a half a month in that period.
A company news release said the impact on employment will be clarified only when Boeing’s annual employment forecast is released early next year.
“In the past, that’s always meant more jobs,” said Connie Kelliher, a spokeswoman for District Lodge 751 of the Machinists union. “We’re very hopeful that it will this time, too.”
There was an immediate sense of irony for the union, which represents more than 32,500 Boeing workers and ended a 69-day strike Thursday.
In the last Machinists strike at Boeing before then, in 1989, one of the big issues was mandatory overtime. The ink was barely dry on that contract before layoffs began, although production kept increasing into 1991.
This time one of the key strike issues was job security. The final contract issue to be resolved was a provision that assures retraining or reassignment of workers displaced by subcontracting.
“Now this one’s over, it looks like they’re going to start hiring,” Kelliher said.
Here is a model-by-model look at production rate changes announced Tuesday:
737 - Now seven a month, going to eight and a half in the fourth quarter.
747 - Now two a month, going to three and a half.
757 - Now four a month, dropping to three a month in September, three months later than planned.
767 - Now three and a half a month, going to four in the fourth quarter.
777 - Now unannounced, set at three and a half a month by the third quarter and five a month by the first quarter of 1997.