Canadian Manufacturing

Union in Washington state rejects Boeing’s latest contract proposal

Aerospace and defence giant said plans to shift R&D jobs to southern states unrelated to negotiations

SEATTLE—The Boeing Co. said plans to shift hundreds of jobs from the U.S. Pacific Coast to southern states is unrelated to the ongoing 777X saga or Boeing’s contract negotiations with a Seattle-area machinists union.

Speculation swirled after the aerospace and defence giant announced it would move the jobs to Alabama, Missouri and South Carolina over the next two years as part of a restructuring of its U.S. research operations.

That announcement came the same day Boeing presented what it called a final counterproposal in negotiations to keep much of the work on a new 777X jet in the Puget Sound region of Washington state.

A company spokesperson said local leaders from the International Association of Machinists (IAM) rejected the latest contract offer.

The Machinists rejected an initial proposed eight-year contract for the 777X work last month in part because it would have replaced workers’ traditional defined-benefit pension with a defined-contribution savings plan.

The union and the company reopened talks Dec. 10 after nearly a month-long stand-off.

That day was also Boeing’s deadline for other states to submit proposals to build the new jet, which it opened after the initial proposal was rejected last month.

The company said it has received proposals from 22 states for the work on the new jet.

Washinton Gov. Jay Inslee said he planned to talk to both sides after the latest rejection as he continues his push to keep the work in his state.

“Despite (the) setback, I remain convinced that an agreement between the Machinists and Boeing would be in the best interest of all parties—the workers, the company and Washington state,” he said in a statement. “We have submitted our state’s proposal and I still hope that the company will recognize that the best way to ensure that the 777X is delivered to its customers on time and at the least cost is to build it here.”

Last month Inslee approved a package of tax breaks for Boeing worth $9-billion through 2040.

Boeing spokesperson Daryl Stephenson said the restructuring of the company’s research operations has been in the works for several years and is unrelated to the new airplane or Boeing’s contract negotiations with the machinists union.

The research restructuring will add 300-400 employees each in the St. Louis area, Huntsville, Ala., and North Charleston, S.C.

Research jobs will decline by 800-1,200 in the Seattle area and by 200-300 in southern California, the company said.

A national Machinists union negotiator told The Seattle Times that union members should get a chance to make their own decision on what Boeing called its “best and final counterproposal.”

Local Machinist union leaders said in a statement that they could not recommend that offer because “the price was too high.”

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