OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (AP) – An overwhelming majority of machinists striking at a Boeing Co. airliner components factory in Oak Ridge approved a new contract Wednesday.About 180 union employees are slated to be laid off and nearly 25 salary and management employees are expected to lose their jobs as part of the three-year contract ratified by the union workers. The International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers Local 2709 voted 197-53 to support the contract. Workers had rejected a previous contract offer over job security and benefits issues in August. Employees are scheduled to return to work Nov. 27. ''This is a very bittersweet win,'' union president Mike Minor said. ''We're losing 180 people. I don't know how long-term that is. I'm hoping we can work with Boeing to bring those people back as soon as possible.''
Boeing spokesman Chris Villiers said the company is glad that employees have ratified the contract. ''It's a positive development that allows us to put the strike behind us and focus on enhancing the production of the Boeing Oak Ridge site,'' he said. Other terms of the contract offer include a five percent wage increase on Dec. 1, a three percent increase next August and a three percent increase in August 2008. The workers who will be laid off will remain on the Boeing payroll until Jan. 25, and their Boeing health care coverage will continue through April 2007. The strike was the first in the history of the 25-year-old factory, which makes subassemblies for commercial airliners, including flight deck consoles for Boeing 737s, 747s, 767s, 777s and 787s, defense products and centrifuge components for the uranium-enrichment industry. To keep its commercial airplane assembly lines operating during the strike, Boeing transferred production of 737 and 777 flight deck consoles from Oak Ridge to other locations. Additional commercial airplane manufacturing work was given to prime contractors. As a result, daily operations will be reduced from three shifts to one shift, the company said.