Boeing Strike Over

Boeing and union reached tentative agreement on a new four-year contract covering 27,000 employees.

Boeing and leaders of a machinists' union reached an agreement on Oct. 27 on a new contract to end a strike that has paralyzed the group's civil aviation operations since early September, the company and the union said. "Boeing and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) today reached tentative agreement on a new four-year contract covering 27,000 employees," Boeing said.

The new contract will now be submitted to members of IAM for approval, with a simple majority required. The leaders of the union are urging them to support the deal. "The tentative agreement has the unanimous endorsement of the IAM negotiating committee and will be presented to members for a ratification vote, which will take place in 3-5 days," said the union.

Boeing's 27,000 machinists, who represent 16% of the company's workforce, began picketing on September 6 after the failure of last-ditch contract talks. The two sides have since been in mediated talks to break the deadlock.

The 52-day strike is estimated by some analysts to be costing the company more than $100 million per day and risks further delaying Boeing's new passenger jet, the 787 Dreamliner.

Details of the deal were not made public, but IAM said the new contract "will provide job security for its members and limit the amount of work outside vendors can perform in the workplace." The labor negotiations also resolved disagreements over wage rates, health care benefits for workers, pension benefits and work rule changes designed to bolster productivity, the union said. "The company retained the flexibility necessary to manage its business, while making changes to the contract language to address the union's issues on job security, pay and benefits," said Boeing. "The offer provides general wage increases every year and increases pension benefits."

Once the strike ends, attention will turn to the consequences of the action on the already delayed development of the 787 Dreamliner, for which nearly 900 orders have been placed by the world's airlines. The first deliveries of the 787, initially planned for the first half of 2008, have been pushed back to the third quarter of 2009 due to production difficulties. Boeing has declined to comment on any further slippage in the schedule, saying consistently that it would take stock and make an announcement when the strike was brought to an end.

Boeing is also in talks with its 13,390 engineers and 6,889 technicians to try to secure agreement before contracts expire in December.Talks are expected to resume on Oct. 29.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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