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Machinists Dismiss Boeing’s Latest Offer

From Associated Press

Boeing Co. has submitted a revised contract offer that would boost cash bonuses by at least $1,500, but leaders of the International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents 18,400 Boeing workers, say the company missed the point: pensions.

Boeing spokesman Charles N. Bickers characterized the changes, which carry an immediate price tag of at least $27.2 million, as “an important improvement, a substantial improvement.”

Connie Kelliher, a spokeswoman for Machinists District Lodge 751, said the two sides remained far apart, and she dismissed the three-year offer submitted late Sunday night as a minimal advance.

“The company’s latest offer showed no substantial improvements on our top three issues, which are pensions, healthcare and job security,” Kelliher said.

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Workers represented in the talks now receive an average of $59,000 a year. No general pay increase has been offered, but Boeing estimates that cost-of-living provisions would boost base wages by about 1% in each year of the contract.

“Our top issue is pensions,” Kelliher said. “Wages are not an issue.”

She said the latest offer made no changes in job security or pension provisions. Boeing has offered to boost pension contributions by less than the amount they were raised in the last contract. That agreement was reached in the year after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when the company was reeling from the worldwide economic and airline slump.

The three-year contract with Boeing’s biggest union, which represents mostly hourly workers who assemble passenger and cargo jets and build components for those aircraft in the Seattle area, Wichita, Kan., and Gresham, Ore., expires Friday. Under a negotiating timetable cited by both sides, Boeing’s final offer is due today.

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On Monday morning, a color-coded negotiations status bar on the union’s website had fallen to red for “Strike is looming,” down from orange for “Takeaways being proposed by the company” late last week.

The release and discussion of proposed Boeing contract terms is a marked departure from the past, when details were withheld until the final proposal was submitted to a union membership vote. On Friday the company released details of a revised offer, complaining that its first offer had been leaked and misrepresented.

The biggest apparent change in the latest offer was in bonuses: $4,500 on ratification plus a new $1,000 payment in March “recognizing employees’ contributions to Boeing’s performance this year.” That’s $1,500 more than the previous offer of a $2,000 ratification bonus and $2,000 in cash the first year of the contract.

The statement said the second bonus amounted to a “jump start” on an earlier incentive pay offer that would provide five days of pay to Seattle-area and Gresham workers if the company met financial targets and up to 15 days’ worth if the targets were exceeded.

Workers also could put all or some of their ratification bonuses into their voluntary investment plans -- a Boeing version of 401(k) plans -- and the company would match 50% of the first $2,250, rather than a 50% match on a $2,000 rollover as proposed Friday night.

Bickers said he did not have aggregate cost figures that would cover other changes in the latest offer, including a new health coverage option that would require no premiums for a worker and partner and a premium of $10 per paycheck to add coverage of other family members.


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