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Boeing, Union in Initial Deal

Striking machinists will vote on the contract, which includes health insurance concessions from the company.

September 26, 2005|From Associated Press

SEATTLE — Boeing Co. and its machinists' union have reached a tentative contract agreement, which if approved would end a three-week strike that shut down the company's airplane production.

Mark Blondin, district president for Machinists District Lodge 751 in Seattle, confirmed the agreement Sunday and said union members would vote on the deal Thursday.

"I'm just proud of our membership," Blondin said. "They stood solid, unified, and that solidarity is what finally got the company to do the right thing."

Boeing spokesman Charles Bickers said the company believed that the agreement was reasonable and reflected compromise on both sides.

Blondin said the deal called for Boeing to make no changes to its current healthcare plan, despite huge increases in healthcare costs nationwide. That's a major change from the premium and other increases that Boeing had demanded.

Pension payouts for union members would increase to $70 a month for every year served, up from $60 currently; the previous offer was $66. The company also agreed to continue offering medical benefits for retirees, Blondin said.

There would be no general wage increase, but workers would receive an 8% signing bonus, or about $5,000, plus $3,000 payouts in the second and third years of the contract, he said.

Blondin acknowledged Sunday that the union had hoped for a higher increase to pension payouts, but he said the fact that healthcare payouts wouldn't change was, in the end, better for workers.

The workers represented average 49 years of age. They are paid an average of $59,000 a year.

One incentive dropped from the original offer was an incentive pay program that would have provided bonuses if the company met or exceeded financial targets. In another change, the offer terms are the same for workers in the Puget Sound area, Gresham, Ore., and Wichita, Kan.; previously some terms were less for Wichita workers.

The strike began after workers rejected Boeing's previous three-year contract proposal, described as "insulting" by their leaders.

About 18,400 workers who assemble Boeing's commercial airplanes and some key components walked off the job Sept. 2, forcing the Chicago-based company to immediately stop its airplane production.

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