New pact has solid improvements to keep Boeing competitive here for future work
By ED FINKELSTEIN
St. Louis – By a whopping 75 percent margin, Machinists District 837 members at Boeing’s north county plant accepted a seven-year contract extension designed to lower the cost of building current and future aircraft in St. Louis in order to ensure long-term employment at the plant.
The vote was 1,269 “yes” to 449 “no.” The current contract ends in January 2015. The extension will run until July 2022. District 837 represents 2,400 Boeing employees.
The new agreement, sought by District 837 as a way to provide an early retirement package instead of members facing layoffs as work on the F/A-18, F-15 and C-17 slows, was negotiated in a record eight days. Work on the F/A-18 Super Hornet is scheduled to end in 2016 unless the Defense Department includes additional funding in next year’s budget.
“This is a contract that will benefit everyone now and in the long-term,” District 837 Directing Business Representative Gordon King told the Labor Tribune. “It creates a cost competitiveness that will allow the company to bid on future work to keep good-paying union jobs in St. Louis. It will allow our older members to take an enhanced early retirement instead of members facing layoffs, and it will be an economic benefit to the entire community if we can bring more work to Boeing in the future.”
To help reign in costs to allow Boeing to be competitive in efforts to bring future work here as well as encourage Congress to extend the production lines of current fighter aircraft, the members agreed to:
• A two-tiered wage system that will see new employees hired after March 1, 2014 start at a $5 to $7 an hour lower wage depending on classifications. Current wage levels are not affected.
• An increase in employee contributions to their health and welfare and dental plans. If there are any additional fees ultimately imposed on the health care plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act, those fees will be passed on to the employees and retirees.
•Freezing the defined pension benefits beginning December 2015 and transitioning to a defined contribution (401k) starting in Jan. 2016.
• An early retirement program offer for those 50 – 62 years old with enhanced retirement benefits to include a one-time $5,000 bonus. This will allow for an immediate reduction of the workforce without layoffs.
The new agreement has a number of positive benefits:
• Signing bonus of $8,000 immediately and another $7,000 spread over two-year increments beginning in 2017.
• A one-time pay adjustment now for anyone earning below the maximum for their classification.
• Continuation of the Production Performance Sharing Plan, an annual bonus system designed to reward workers for meeting production goals. Last year, the entire workforce earned an additional six days of pay as a result.
• Continuation of cost-of-living adjustments.
“Our members carefully considered all the alternatives and made their decision. The majority felt it was in their best interests and so we now move forward,” said District 837 Secretary-Treasurer DeWitt Darity.
“This was a case of the union being pro-active to help protect our members,” King stressed. “We realized that the current production lines are slowing down and we knew the company would have to adjust its workforce accordingly. We wanted to avoid layoffs and the financial instability for families that follows.
“We applaud Boeing for its willingness to meet with us and negotiate a contract that shows this union and the company are willing to work together looking to the long-term for everyone’s benefit.”
The effort here is in stark contrast to the Machinists negotiations in Seattle that threatened to force the closure of Boeing’s plant there. An initial proposal was rejected.
That launched a nation-wide search by Boeing for a new plant site to build its commercial 777X jetliners. Missouri put in an incredible bid and sources told the Labor Tribune that the state was in serious contention, but Boeing opted to stay in Seattle after a second vote by Seattle union members approved pension and other adjustments sought by the company.
THANKS TO ALL
“I want to thank the bargaining committee for their hard work and dedication,” King said. “I also want to thank our members for making their voices heard. I am very pleased with how our members conducted themselves during this contract extension vote.”
With lower costs here, Boeing is now in an excellent position to fight for future work, including: a new Navy umanned drone and the Air Forces’s T-X trainer jet and new long-range strike bomber.