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Hawker Beechcraft, Union Reach Deal

Machinists union announced it has reached a tentative deal with aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft that could end a strike at the company's plants in Wichita and Salina, Kan.

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- The Machinists union announced Monday that it has reached a tentative deal with aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft that could end a strike at the company's plants in Wichita and Salina.

Members of the union will vote Thursday.

Machinists spokesman Bob Wood said the union leadership is recommending approval of the offer. He said the union received important and substantial improvements after 21 days of striking.

"The picket lines remain until the contract is ratified," Wood said. "Obviously, members make the final decisions, but this was, for 21 days, a huge win. We gave nothing up and we got nothing but improvements."

Hawker Beechcraft spokesman Andrew Broom did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

Wood said the new offer freezes vision and dental health care costs, meaning the 4 percent raise in wages won't be eaten up by health care premiums. The company also made improvements to pensions, overtime and other contract provisions, he said.

"It shows our solidarity and power -- how well we stuck together and kept together," Wood said. "We certainly made our point and showed the company that it was a successful strike, definitely."

Wood praised federal mediators for helping broker the deal after three tough days of negotiations.

Machinists have been striking at the company's plants in Wichita and Salina since Aug. 4, when the union's old contract expired.

The Machinists' contract covers about 4,700 hourly workers at the Wichita plant and 500 in Salina.

If the latest contract offer is ratified, the machinists would go back to work on Sept. 2.

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