GENERAL VALLEY NEWS
CONTRACT TALKS SLOW BETWEEN BOEING AND IAM
August 22, 2008
(SEATTLE, WA) -- With the national economy slowing and as job lay offs in some areas increase, Sky Valley residents who work for Boeing have good reasons to hope the company and its largest workers’ union come to a settlement soon on a contract.
Boeing is 2nd largest military supplier to U.S. Pentagon
But at present talks appear to be moving at a crawl pace in the last leg of contract negotiations between Boeing and the machinist’s union. There appears to be no sign of an immediate breakthrough as the end of the current contract draws closer.
Boeing wants to cut pension and health care costs. Machinists desire a larger piece of Boeing’s record profits.
If there is a strike after the current contract expires at midnight on September 3rd – as some industry watchers believe there will be – the walkout could cost Boeing upwards of $3 Billion dollars a month in revenue.
And a strike would be big news as The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), which represents 27,000 Boeing workers mostly in the Puget Sound region but also in Portland and Wichita, Kansas, has gone on strike only three times in the last 20 years.
At last report negotiators for Boeing and the IAM, led by Seattle-area president Tom Wroblewski, were holed up in the DoubleTree hotel near Sea-Tac airport for 10 days of round-the-clock talks to get the contract settled. Those contract talks first started in early May.
Little progress has been reported by either side. The hurdles as seen from the union’s eyes are Boeing's proposals to stop offering retirement medical coverage for future machinist union employees and placing new union employees into a defined retirement benefit plan rather than the traditional Boeing pension fund. Boeing also wants the 700 plus workers in Wichita moved onto a different union contract.
The IAM considers those Boeing desires as strike issues. If there is a strike it would come at a time that Boeing is working hard to get its new jet liner finished and airborne.
The new 787 is a lightweight, fuel-efficient jet liner that is considered a cornerstone to the company’s future. The aircraft is running about 15 months behind schedule with the first test flight scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year. A strike by the IAM could delay that test flight.
Boeing is the world's biggest-selling commercial aircraft manufacturer and remains the second largest supplier to the U.S. Pentagon. Boeing reeled in a record $4.1 billion net profit last year amidst a big surge in plane orders and an increase in U.S. military spending.
The IAM slogan in light of these heady salad days for the company is "It's our time this time," as the union seeks a bigger portion of that sweet salad for its members.