September 6, 2008 in Nation/World

Boeing talks with Machinists fail; union will strike

By MANUEL VALDES Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Brad Lee, 47, grabs a picket sign at Machinists Union Hall in Seattle on Friday.
(Full-size photo)

SEATTLE – Despite a 48-hour contract extension, negotiations between Boeing Co. and Machinists union officials failed Friday and the union said a strike was set to begin at 12:01 a.m. PDT today.

When the talks broke off, the union sent out a message to members saying: “The strike is on!”

The company said it would not try to assemble planes during the strike.

Boeing spokesman Tim Healy said the company is open to further discussion, but both sides were too far apart to reach agreement. He added no additional talks were scheduled.

The Machinists bargain for about 25,000 aircraft assembly workers in the Puget Sound area and about 2,000 more in Wichita, Kan., and Portland, Ore.

Union members on Wednesday voted 80 percent to reject Boeing’s final three-year contract offer and 87 percent to go on strike, mainly over job security. Both sides agreed to the extension at the request of Gov. Chris Gregoire and federal mediators.

Negotiators for Boeing and the Machinists union jetted off to a Disney resort in Florida for talks following the extension, in part so Tom Buffenbarger, International Association of Machinists international president, could participate. Buffenbarger was at the resort for an IAM convention.

Tom Wroblewski, president of Machinists District Lodge 751, declared in a statement that Boeing had “disrespected the finest aerospace workers anywhere on the planet” by failing to meet machinists’ expectations.

“Despite meeting late into the night and throughout the day, continued contract talks with the Boeing Company did not address our issues,” he added.

“Over the past two days, Boeing, the union and the federal mediator worked hard in pursuing good-faith explorations of options that could lead to an agreement,” Scott Carson, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a statement. “Unfortunately the differences were too great to close.”

Boeing operations in Washington, Oregon and Kansas will remain open, Carson said. Employees, such as engineers, who are not represented by the Machinists are expected to report for work as usual, he added.

Though the company does not intend to assemble airplanes during the strike, it would deliver completed planes and supply customers with spare parts, Carson said.

Boeing’s “best and final” three-year offer, presented Aug. 28 after talks that began May 8, included bonuses totaling at least $5,000 and averaging $6,400, raises averaging 11 percent, pension increases and a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment – $34,000 in average pay and benefit gains per employee, according to the company.

The average Boeing machinist earns $27 an hour, or about $56,000 a year, before overtime and incentives.

“We’re not greedy, we just want a piece of the pie,” said union member Scott Daniels, 41. “They offer us bonuses. We don’t want bonuses.”

Machinists want an improved 401(k) and improved vacation, he said.

Analysts have said a strike could cost Boeing about $100 million per day in deferred revenue. During the last strike – a 24-day walkout in 2005 that was one of the shortest in company history – Boeing was unable to deliver more than two dozen airplanes on schedule.

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