Union mulls having members vote on Boeing contract offer
By MIKE BAKER
THE Associated Press | December 14,2013
SEATTLE — A machinists union is exploring the possibility of letting its members in the Puget Sound vote on a proposed contract from Boeing Co., even after local union leaders said they couldn’t recommend it to their members.
International Association of Machinists spokesman Frank Larkin said the union has been hearing from hundreds of members demanding an opportunity to vote on the contract to secure work on the 777X airplane.
“The logistics of a vote are under consideration right now,” Larkin said.
A latest round of contract talks collapsed Thursday after local officials with the Machinists said they could not recommend Boeing’s latest proposal to members. Local Machinists spokesman Bryan Corliss says Boeing has withdrawn the contract offer.
“At this point, Boeing has rescinded the offer, so we have nothing to take to our members,” Corliss said Friday. Boeing spokesman Doug Alder, however, said while negotiations have stalled, the contract offer is still on the table and in the union’s hands.
Local union officials have seemed to disagree with their national leaders in recent weeks on how to handle Boeing’s offers. That division was clear last month, when local union members voted to reject a contract negotiated by IAM leadership.
Boeing and the Machinists have been exploring a deal that would secure the production of the new 777X airplane in the Puget Sound and the thousands of jobs that come with it.
This week, Boeing made some changes to its original contract proposal, backing away from a proposal that would slow the rate at which employees rise up the pay scale and adding an additional $5,000 in bonus pay. The biggest sticking point appears to be the company’s insistence that workers move from a traditional defined-benefit pension to a defined-contribution savings plan.
The local machinists said in a statement Thursday night the company’s latest proposal was too high of a price to pay to secure the 777X.
“Going back to the table was the responsible thing to do,” said District 751 President Tom Wroblewski in the statement. “We just couldn’t get to an agreement. Again, the price was too high.”
Looming over the talks is the prospect that the company could build the airplane elsewhere. Boeing said it has received proposals from 22 states eager for the 777X jobs, with some proposing multiple sites. The company said 54 sites are now being evaluated.
In its own bid to win the 777X jobs, Washington state recently approved tax breaks for Boeing valued at $9 billion over the coming years, along with legislation to improve aerospace training programs and the permitting process.
Chicago-based Boeing began offering the 777X in May, but it’s still finalizing plans for the plane and aiming to deliver the first aircraft by the end of the decade. Boeing has said it is expected to carry as many as 400 passengers and be more fuel efficient than the current 777.
At the Dubai Airshow last month, Boeing received orders for 225 such planes from three airlines.