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Machinists closer to strike

Post by Marcelene Edwards on Aug. 29, 2008 at 3:46 pm with No Comments »
August 29, 2008 3:46 pm

Leaders of Boeing Co.’s Machinists union called for a strike today after deciding a proposed labor contract the aerospace company called its "best and final" offer wasn’t good enough, The Associated Press reports.

They urged members to reject the offer in an upcoming vote.

Boeing had hoped the proposal, which provides added pay and incentives to workers over three years, would help it avert a labor standoff. The talks come as Boeing tries to keep up with a backlog of plane orders and avoid more penalties caused by production delays of its next-generation passenger jet, the AP reports.

The union has planned a news conference later Friday to explain details of the decision, said Connie Kelliher, a spokeswoman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 751.

A Boeing spokesman said the company was "extremely disappointed" by the union’s response.

The sides have been negotiating over a new 3-year contract since May 9 and round-the-clock talks began Aug. 21 at a Seattle airport. In 2005, about 18,400 machinists in the Pacific Northwest and Wichita, Kan., struck for four weeks, forcing the company to halt commercial airplane production. The machinists assemble Boeing’s commercial planes and some key components.

The proposal, Boeing’s third offer, was delivered to the union Thursday. It would have increased pay by 11 percent on average for more than 27,000 union workers in Washington state, Kansas and Oregon, the company said.

The tentative deal also included a $2,500 bonus for workers if the agreement was ratified by Wednesday, when the current contract expires and a union vote is scheduled.

Boeing said it had withdrawn certain contentious proposals, such as plans to cut early retiree medical coverage and create a new defined-contribution retirement program for future employees.

The union held a preliminary vote to authorize a strike in July. On Wednesday, members are scheduled to cast two ballots: one to accept or reject Boeing’s latest offer and another on whether to launch a strike. A simple majority is required to reject the contract, and a two-thirds majority is needed to call a strike, which would trigger a work stoppage at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

Tim Healy, a Boeing spokesman, said: "We’re extremely disappointed that the union is recommending that our employees reject what adds up to the best contract in the aerospace industry."

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