Tags: Boeing | 777X | union | jobs

Boeing Focuses on States' Bids for 777X as Union Talks Fail

Friday, 13 Dec 2013 10:54 AM

Boeing Co. said it’s reviewing 54 sites in 22 states to produce its 777X aircraft after labor talks ended with its largest union rejecting a new company proposal for contract concessions.

Machinists leaders turned down Boeing’s conditions for keeping work on the jet in the company’s Seattle commercial hub, the planemaker said yesterday. Boeing’s plan, a response to a Dec. 11 union proposal, called for freezing pensions in 2016 and shifting employees to a 401(k)-like retirement program.

“We’ve listened to the union leadership and had an open dialogue in hopes of moving toward each other,” Ray Conner, chief executive officer of Boeing’s commercial aircraft unit, said in an e-mailed statement. “Unfortunately the offer, which would have ensured this great airplane for the Puget Sound region, was immediately rejected by the union leadership.”

With discussions concluded, Chicago-based Boeing is shifting focus to the proposals from states vying to host assembly of its newest wide-body jet, carbon-fiber wing and other parts, said Doug Alder, a spokesman. With the exception of some 787 Dreamliners built in South Carolina, Boeing produces all its commercial planes in the Seattle area.

Boeing is reviewing 54 potential sites, since many states submitted multiple locations for consideration. The company plans to move quickly to winnow the list, making a decision on a 777 venue early next year, Alder said in a telephone interview.

‘Too High’

Machinists couldn’t accept the planemaker’s proposal because “the price Boeing demanded was too high,” said Tom Wroblewski, president of the union’s District 751. “Our senior leadership team could not recommend Boeing’s counter-offer.”

The Seattle Times, citing a union negotiator, Rich Michalski, reported later that the machinists may still put Boeing’s proposal to a vote.

The union had offered Boeing a preliminary proposal that would have extended the current contract until 2024, Wroblewski said in a statement on the Machinists’ website. Boeing’s counter offer “was mostly unchanged from the proposal that Machinists had rejected” on Nov. 13, he said.

Boeing rose 0.5 percent to $133.66 at 10:13 a.m. in New York. The shares surged 76 percent this year through yesterday, the biggest advance among the 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

States’ Deadline

Labor relations, which were chilled after machinists overwhelmingly rejected 777X-related concessions demanded by Boeing last month, seemingly thawed this week as the company fielded proposals from California to North Carolina offering billions of dollars in incentives to land jet manufacturing that would create thousands of jobs.

Conner met with Wroblewski on Dec. 10, the day that state bids were due, and the union followed up a day later with proposed changes to the contract expiring in 2016. Two-thirds of members voted on Nov. 13 to reject an eight-year extension proposed by Boeing that would have frozen pension plans and slowed how quickly workers advance to maximum hourly wages.

While the union didn’t divulge details of this week’s offer, Wroblewski described it as meeting “the needs of our members, while also ensuring the long-term success of the Boeing Co. in Washington state,” according to a statement on Dec. 11.

Boeing said union leadership rejected its “best and final counterproposal,” which included $15,000 in bonuses per member, increased dental benefits and an agreement to keep the current wage structure that allows workers to advance to the top of the pay scale in about six years.

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Boeing Co. said it's reviewing 54 sites in 22 states to produce its 777X aircraft after labor talks ended with its largest union rejecting a new company proposal for contract concessions.
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Friday, 13 Dec 2013 10:54 AM
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