Sun, Aug 31, 2008 - Page 11 News List

Leaders of machinist union call for Boeing strike

AP , SEATAC, WASHINGTON

Boeing machinists rally outside the Boeing plant in Everett, Washington, during their lunch break on Thursday.

PHOTO: AP

Leaders of Boeing Co’s Machinists union called for a strike on Friday after deciding that a proposed labor contract the aerospace company called its “best and final” offer wasn’t good enough. They urged members to reject the offer in an upcoming vote.

The Chicago-based company 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.

Tom Wroblewski, district president of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 751, said the company’s offer fell short in terms of job security, wages and medical coverage, among other areas.

“We did not take lightly the fact we recommended a strike,” he told a news conference. “This is not just talking about 27,000 members. This is talking about 27,000 members and their families.”

The sides have been negotiating over since May 9 and round-the-clock talks began on Aug. 21. In 2005, about 18,400 machinists in the Pacific Northwest and Wichita, Kansas, struck for four weeks.

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

The tentative deal also included a US$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 withdrew certain proposals, such as plans to cut early retiree medical coverage and create a defined-contribution retirement program for future employees.

Wroblewski said the union was willing to continue bargaining and would welcome the involvement of a federal mediator.

“It’s all in the company’s court at this point,” he said.

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