United States: Machinists win new contract with Boeing

November 7, 2008

Machinists, represented by the Industrial Association of Machinists (IAM), at Boeing plants in the US voted on November 1 to end a 57-day strike and accept a new contract offer.

The strike cost Boeing an estimated US$1.4 billion.

Boeing's offer, accepted by 74% of the IAM's 27,000 members, provided a number of improvements on the company's original offer. These include improvements in job security for the next four years; removal of reductions in healthcare provisions for workers and their families; increases in Boeing's pension contributions; and a 4% improvement in the guaranteed wage increase as well as improved job classifications.

Supporters of a "no" vote on the new contract argued that while the new contract was an improvement on the original offer, it was not as good as it could be considering Boeing is experiencing record profits and currently has a backlog $346 billion in sales, equivalent to eight years' production.

They argued that many of the improvements were included by simply adding a fourth year to the contract. The original guaranteed wage increase was 11% over three years, the new offer is for 15% over four, with the additional increase in the final year of the contract.

Pension contributions will be increased by $13 in the final year of the contract, while the improvement in the contribution between the two offers is just $1 in the first three years of the contract.

Opponents of the new contract offer also argued that it failed to address other issues that had been at the centre of the strike, such as reducing the differentials between old and new hires that had been introduced in previous agreements.

Also, workers wanted guarantees in the contract to stop outsourcing for the building of 787s and any future aircraft designs manufactured by Boeing.

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