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Wed, Aug 27, 2008

'Tense' Negotiations Between Boeing, Machinists Bear Little Fruit

Analysts Predict Strike Is Looming

The clock is ticking down to the end of Boeing's contract with the International Association of Machinists. The union has decided to strike against Boeing three times in the last 20 years.

As ANN reported, Boeing met with union officials last week, in one last effort to hash out a new contract and avoid a crippling strike. At this writing, both sides are still holed up in an hotel conference room near Sea-Tac.

How likely a strike is this time depends on who you talk to. Reuters quotes union officials as calling Boeing's latest contract offer "insulting," and the negotiations "tense."

The company is offering a pay increase of 2.5 percent the first year and two percent in each of the following two years. Instead of continuing to offer its traditional pension plan, Boeing wants to switch new hires instead to a defined retirement benefit plan.

Union spokeswoman Connie Kelliher says the IAM made a counterproposal Saturday, calling for a substantial increase to pension and health-care benefits. "The company needs to get serious and offer a proposal that gives our members the improvements that they deserve," Kelliher said.

Industry observers predict a crippling strike next week, but Boeing's Tim Healy suggests those observers have been paying too much attention to the union's rhetoric. "Discussions have been good. We still remain optimistic that we can give a final offer by the Labor Day weekend," Healy said.

Boeing was expected to make a best and final offer Monday, with a union ratification vote September 3. Much is at stake. A halt in new aircraft deliveries would cost the company about $3 billion a month in revenue.

FMI: www.boeing.com/2008negotiations/, www.iam751.org/contract08.htm

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