Machinists voting Saturday on new Boeing contract

Members of the Machinists union that struck the Boeing Co. for nearly eight weeks are voting Saturday on a new contract.

According to the union, the vote is simply to accept or reject the offer. The vote needs 50 percent plus one to accept or reject the offer. If the offer is ratified, members can return to work as early as Monday, according to the union Web site.

Voting is from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Green River Community College (12401 S.E. 320th St., Auburn), 751 Seattle Union Hall (9135 15th Pl. S., Seattle) and Evergreen Fairgrounds (14405 179th Ave. S.E., Monroe).

The picketing will continue until the new contract is ratified.

Boeing and Machinists negotiators reached a tentative four-year agreement late Monday in Washington, D.C., with wage increases totaling 15 percent. If approved – and from many indications it will be – the Machinists' strike likely will end.

The 52-day shutdown of the company's commercial airplane operations began Sept. 6. About 5,000 Machinists work in Boeing's facilities in Renton.

The union estimates that the strike has cost The Boeing Co. about $5.5 billion. The company has not confirmed such figures.

According to Boeing and Machinists union representatives, the proposed deal would enhance job security, the most contentious issue in the dispute.

The deal was struck between officials on the fifth day of talks at Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service headquarters in Washington D.C.

The new offer includes:

• General wages: Raises of 5, 3, 3 and 4 percent in consecutive years, for a total 15 percent over the four years of the contract. It compared with a total of 11 percent over three years in Boeing's last pre-strike offer, as well as additional hourly rate increases for low-seniority workers.

• Minimum wages: Raised $2.28. Also, recent hires receive a supplemental raise, putting them past entry level for new hires.

• Pension: A boost in the pension formula to $81 per year of service next year and to $83 per year in 2012, compared with $80 per year of service in the last offer.

• Bonuses: Amounts of $5,000 or 10 percent of the previous year's earnings, whichever is greater, in the first year, then $1,500 in the second year, $1,500 in the third year and none in the fourth, compared with a single pair of bonuses totaling an average of $6,400 this year in the previous offer

• Company incentive-pay plan: Machinists not included.

• Medical-plan changes: No increases to employee costs. Preservation of the current medical cost structure and benefits through 2012, rather than a number of changes Boeing had sought to shift more of the cost onto workers.

• Also: Stronger provisions for the union to bid against subcontractors for work; a revised agreement to protect about 2,200 facilities and maintenance jobs through the life of the contract; expanded job protection for another 2,920 forklift drivers, environmental control personnel, inventory clerks and other workers, and limits on vendor deliveries to the shop floor.

Scott E. Carson, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president, said in a release the agreement "rewards employees for their contributions to our success while preserving our ability to compete."

IAM represents about 25,000 workers in and around Seattle and Renton, 1,500 in Gresham, Ore., and 750 in Wichita, Kan. Participants in the talks included IAM President Tom Buffenbarger and General Vice President Rich Michalski.

The union's statement said the pact unanimously was endorsed by IAM negotiators.

"This tentative agreement is the result of hard work and great sacrifice by many people," said Mark Blondin, the union's aerospace coordinator and chief negotiator, in the statement, "but no one deserves more credit than the workers at Boeing, who conducted themselves with dignity and determination throughout this ordeal.

"On behalf of the entire negotiating committee, I want to say it has been our honor to serve as their representatives."

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