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Boeing workers to vote today on new contract PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 06 September 2008

AP, SEATTLE -- The workers who assemble The Boeing Co.'s commercial planes and some of its key components prepared to vote Wednesday on the company's ''best and final'' contract offer, with union leaders recommending they reject the deal and go out on strike.

Despite $5,000 in signing bonuses and raises averaging 11 percent over the proposal's three-year span, leaders of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers have said the offer falls short.
The contract covers more than 27,000 commercial airplane production workers in three states -- about 25,000 workers in the Puget Sound region represented by the union's District Lodge 751; about 1,500 in District 24 in Gresham, Ore., a Portland suburb; and about 750 in District 70 in Wichita, Kan.
Key issues include pay, outsourcing and retirement and health care benefits.
On Wednesday, members are scheduled to cast two ballots: one to accept or reject Boeing's latest offer and another on whether to begin 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. PDT Thursday, when the current contract expires.
Results of the vote are expected Wednesday night.
The average Boeing machinist earns $27 an hour, or about $56,000 a year, before overtime and incentives.
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.
Gary N. Chaison, an industrial relations professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., said he had been following developments closely and rated the possibility of a strike at about 50-50.
''The parties are going right to the edge of the cliff,'' Chaison said. ''This is a situation that's ripe for miscalculation.''
Boeing has about an eight-year backlog of deliveries and would lose as much as $100 million a day in deferred revenue as well as further delays in delivery of the new 787 commercial jet, analysts said, adding that riveters, electricians, painters and other workers would be hard-pressed to recover lost wages from plum jobs in an otherwise bleak economy.
The union previously struck for 140 days in 1948, 19 days in 1965, 45 days in 1977, 48 days in 1989 and 69 days in 1995.
There have been no talks since Boeing's third offer was presented last Thursday and none are scheduled, although both sides have been independently in contact with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service since negotiations began in early May.
Connie Kelliher, a spokeswoman for District 751, said word from the rank and file indicated a strike vote well over the two-thirds minimum.
''Certainly, what I have been hearing from the workers, it's not going to be close,'' she said.
Boeing spokesman Tim Healy would not say whether the company had made any security or other preparations for a strike.
''We're still optimistic,'' Healy said. ''This is a very good offer.''
Besides the wage hikes, the offer includes pension increases and a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment, bringing total gains in pay and benefits to an average $34,000 over three years, according to the company.

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