Machinists vote to accept Bombardier Learjet contract offer, ending strike
Nov 10, 2012 (Menafn - The Wichita Eagle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --The strike at Bombardier Learjet has ended after Machinists union members voted Saturday to accept the company's offer of a new labor contract.
Seventy percent of the members voting approved the contract.
Picketers will resume work on Monday, although they have until Nov. 30 to return to the job.
The mood was mixed at Machinists District 70 on south Meridian, where they voted.
Some expressed reservations about the offer, but also said they thought members might accept it and go back to work.
Union negotiators recommended acceptance of the contract.
Members walked off the job Oct. 8 after rejecting the company's offer of a five-year agreement, saying their main sticking point was significant increases to their health care costs.
"It's better than it was before," Brian Terrell, an avionics technician, said of the company's latest offer.
"I have five kids," Terrell said. He liked that the company added a wellness plan as a choice of health care coverage.
And the company upped its portion of what it will pay for health insurance premiums.
"It works for me," Terrell said.
The strike wasn't a money battle, he said.
"The benefits are really all you have left," Terrell said.
In today's economy, "I think we're dang lucky to have what they're offering."
Kevin Burrow said he thinks members will accept the offer.
"I think people are ready to go back to work," said Burrow, who voted in favor of the offer.
The mood on the picket line is that the proposal is about as good as it's going to get, Burrows said.
"We made our statement," he said. "A strike is a gamble anyway. Whether or not it's a successful strike is a matter of opinion."
Michael Yarnal said he had reservations about the offer, which gives a four percent raise over the life of the five-year contract.
The includes no wage increases in the first year, with a 1 percent increase in each of the next four years.
At the same time the cost of living keeps going up, Yarnal said.
"Everything's going up," said Yarnal, who's been on strike for the duration of the work stoppage. "My income is going to decrease" with the offer.
Still, he has a wife and daughter with medical needs, and he needs to get back to work for the medical coverage.
Now that the strike is over, it will take time to recover friendships, Yarnal said.
Some people crossed the picket line after a day or a week or they didn't go out at all, he said.
"We do the fighting and they get the benefit for it," Yarnal said. "It makes me feel cheated."
And it will take time to build those friendships back.
"There will be some sores against the company and against my fellow coworkers," he said. Still, "I'm a pretty easy guy. I like peaceful co-existence."
Tom Deeds, a 24-year employee and a sheet metal mechanic, said the lack of raises was a "slap."
"That is an insult," Deeds said.
Although the company improved the health insurance costs, he figures everyone is taking a wage cut for the next five years.
"That's tough," he said. "That doesn't do anything for Wichita."
Under the terms of the new contract, he's concerned new employees will be reluctant to stay with the company.
"We're going to be a training center, and we're not going to keep employees," Deeds said. "They'll come in to get their training and leave."
The union's Local Lodge 639 represents 825 hourly workers at Bombardier's Learjet plant in west Wichita.
A federal mediator had asked both parties to return to the negotiating table, and they accepted.
The mediator met with both sides on
This is the second -- and longest -- strike in the plant's history in Wichita.
The union struck the company for three weeks in 2006.
Bombardier Learjet vice president and general manager Ralph Acs warned the union when talks opened that the company faces the realities of an "extremely challenging" market with layoffs, production rate slowdowns and a pause in Learjet 60 production.
At the same time, medical and pension costs are high.
Bombardier Learjet's proposal includes:
It includes lump sum payments of 2,500 in the first year, 1,000 in year 2 and potential payouts through an employee incentive plan in years 3, 4 and 5.
Compared to the rejected proposal, the new offer lowers the cost of health care premiums for hourly workers and increases the company's share of costs.
For example, it includes a point-of-service and health savings account options, with 80-20 premium sharing in the first year and 75-25 premium sharing in each of the remaining years. The proposal also adds two wellness plans with 85-15 percent split of premiums in all five years of the contract.
Contact Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or email@example.com.
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