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Talks Stalled Between Boeing, Striking Union

Six days into a strike by Boeing aircraft assembly workers, there have been no direct talks between the aerospace company and the Machinists union.

SEATTLE (AP) -- Six days into a strike by Boeing Co. aircraft assembly workers, there have been no direct talks between the aerospace company and the Machinists union.

Boeing spokesman Tim Healy said Thursday the company remains willing to negotiate but no talks were scheduled.

The union has not spoken directly with Boeing but remains in daily contact with a federal mediator, said Connie Kelliher, a spokeswoman for the union's District Lodge 751 here.

The Machinists represent about 25,000 Boeing production workers in the Puget Sound area, 1,500 in the Portland, Ore. area and about 750 in Wichita, Kan.

Union members walked out last Saturday, after talks during a two-day contract extension failed to produce an agreement. Negotiations with the aid of a federal mediator failed to resolve key issues, which include pay, outsourcing, retirement benefits and health care provisions.

The company said it would not try to assemble planes during the strike. As of July, Boeing reported a backlog of airplane orders totaling $346 billion.

Analysts estimate the strike is costing Boeing about $100 million a day in deferred revenue.

The production workers struck for 24 days during their last Boeing contract negotiations, in 2005.

The Machinists union has a $140 million strike fund and can sustain support for striking Boeing workers for five or six months, President Tom Buffenbarger said earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Boeing and the union representing its engineers, technical and professional workers have begun the processes leading to contract negotiations. The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace delivered its initial proposal to Boeing on Wednesday.

SPEEA spokesman Bill Dugovich said Boeing needs to share the success it has seen recently, but that the company is shifting more costs in medical and benefit packages to employees.

The union represents nearly 24,000 employees in Seattle, Oregon, Kansas, Utah and California.

Boeing spokeswoman Karen Fincutter said Thursday the company is reviewing the union's proposal carefully, and will provide a response in about a week.

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