Demands were clear to Machinists, Boeing says
Machinists knew what was needed for Everett to land second 787 line, company says
“We very clearly laid out our objectives and our need to have the union's best offer for an agreement by mid-October,” wrote Boeing's Doug Kight and Ray Conner in a message to managers Thursday.
The message came just a day after Boeing leaders picked Charleston, S.C., over Everett as the home of its second 787 assembly line. The decision will create thousands of jobs in South Carolina at a time when Boeing is cutting 6 percent of its work force throughout the company. Boeing management said that labor stability and long-term competitiveness factored highly in their decision-making process.
Kight and Conner disputed Machinists leaders claims that the jet maker was not interested in bargaining with the union. Local Machinists president Tom Wroblewski called the talks a “sham” on Wednesday, saying that Boeing used the talks as a bargaining chip to get more tax breaks out of South Carolina. That state's Legislature called a special session this week to pass tax incentives worth as much as $450 million to land Boeing.
“We were totally flexible,” Wroblewski said. “We were willing to talk about anything. ... (Boeing) never told us what they wanted.”
Boeing's Kight and Conner said Thursday that they asked for a 10-year contract extension from the Machinists but were offered only an eight-year deal. The Boeing managers wanted annual wage increases of 2 percent but the Machinists offered only 3 percent. The two also remained far apart on striking an agreement on increases in pension, Kight and Conner said. Boeing and the Machinists leaders agreed that cost-sharing on health care was necessary but couldn't agree upon a date to start.
A key point of contention: The Machinists wanted a guarantee that Boeing would base future airplane programs in the Puget Sound region far into the future.
“We told the IAM (Machinists) that we wouldn't be able to make commitments on future airplanes so far into the future,” Kight and Conner said.
Wroblewski told Machinists members on Wednesday that, in fact, Boeing leaders would not commit to placing the second 787 line in the region even had the union agreed to the new long-term contract.
“We found ourselves bargaining with ourselves,” Wroblewski said.
As the deadline for having a final offer into Boeing grew near, Kight and Conner said they told “the IAM clearly and repeatedly that their offer did not meet the objectives.” That's why Boeing said it declined last-minute talks with the Machinists, as requested by officials in Washington, D.C.
Boeing hopes to have its Charleston line open by mid-2011. The company already owns a 787 parts factory, which it bought from former supplier Vought earlier this year. The workers at that site voted out the Machinists union in September.
“The Puget Sound region is the hub for aerospace talent,” Kight and Conner wrote. “Puget Sound and Charleston combined are a great engine for growth and a successful future for us all.”
S.C. gov signs incentive package for Boeing
By Bruce Smith
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has signed an incentive package passed as part of a successful bid to lure airline maker Boeing to build an assembly plant in the state.
Sanford signed the bill today in North Charleston. He handed out 10 pens to officials who helped with the negotiations and says one will go to a machinist at the existing Boeing plant in North Charleston that makes parts for the 787 wide-bodied jetliner.
The package is worth $170 million in low-interest loans, plus sales and income tax incentives, if Boeing spends at least $750 million and creates at least 3,800 jobs within seven years.
Lawmakers passed the package Wednesday just before the Chicago-based airline maker tapped North Charleston over Everett for the plant.
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