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Boeing To Send Union Final Offer

Aerospace company plans to present its Machinists with a final contract offer Thursday, after receiving a counterproposal Wednesday from the union.

SEATTLE (AP) -- Boeing Co. plans to present its Machinists with a final contract offer Thursday, after receiving a counterproposal Wednesday from the union, company spokesman Tim Healy said.

The union's latest counterproposal asked for more money and stronger job security language, according to Connie Kelliher, a spokeswoman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 751.

In its Tuesday offer, Boeing bumped a wage increase to 9 percent over three years and raised the basic pension benefit. It also included a yearly 3 percent cost of living adjustment.

Kelliher said the union's counteroffer showed movement from the machinists' side but still "respected the issues our members identified as important."

Chicago-based Boeing's most recent proposal still contained provisions that the union said would take away existing benefits. For instance it would eliminate early retiree medical benefits for future hires and for rehires who have been gone longer than six years, Kelliher said.

About 18,400 machinists in the Seattle area, Wichita, and the Portland area struck for four weeks in 2005, forcing the company to halt production of commercial airplanes. The machinists assemble Boeing's commercial planes and some key components. The union represents 25,000 Boeing employees in the Seattle area, around 1,800 in Wichita and 800 in Portland.

The union also wants language limiting Boeing's use of subcontractors and vendors in place of union members.

Healy has previously said that the union's proposed language would severely restrict Boeing's ability to react to market changes, and that the best way to ensure the company's continued success is to maintain its existing business approach.

Boeing's commercial airplane manufacturing operation, based in the Puget Sound area, has led a resurgence by the company over the past two years amid heavy orders for the much-awaited and increasingly delayed 787.

The current contract expires Sept. 3.

"We believe that when we give the IAM our final offer tomorrow, our employees will see it as an outstanding offer, the best in the industry, and will vote to approve it," Healy said Wednesday night.

Healy said the "final offer" would enhance Boeing's last previous offer but he refused to discuss specifics.

Representatives from Boeing and the union began round-the-clock negotiations on Thursday, Aug. 21, at a Seatac, Wash., hotel.

The average Boeing machinist earns $27 an hour or about $56,000 a year, before overtime and incentives.

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