Hawker Beechcraft Reaches Tentative Deal With Union

The five-year deal calls for no wage increases for the first two years and increases in the employee share of health care costs.

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Hawker Beechcraft and International Association of Machinists reached a tentative deal Monday on a new contract for employees at its Wichita plant.

The five-year deal calls for no wage increases for the first two years and increases in the employee share of health care costs, The Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/oE5yIo) reported for a story published Monday.

Union members are expected to vote on the new contract Saturday, the day before the current contract with Hawker Beechcraft expires. Union officials are urging ratification of the new agreement.

Hawker chairman and CEO Bill Boisture issued a statement saying the deal represented "a spirit of partnering" by the company and union in the wake of uncertainty in the general aviation market.

"This is a key piece of our efforts to maintain a high-quality aircraft assembly footprint in Wichita," Boisture said. "We have agreements with our suppliers, the backing of the city, county and state, and now an agreement on the table with the IAM."

Boisture said the deal, if approved, would give Hawker the potential for growth, while adding jobs in Wichita.

The union represents 2,600 hourly employees. The new contract would retain the pension program for all employees, including new hires.

It also calls for the company to match 50 percent of the first 4 percent of an employee's 401(k) contribution.

Hawker has been courted by other states in hopes of landing the general aviation company as Hawker looked to restructure its operations to remain competitive.

Kansas officials have been bullish in trying to protect the state's aviation industry from attacks from Washington and other states.

Gov. Sam Brownback said at a rally Friday in Wichita that the industry had faced difficult financial conditions in recent years and that President Barack Obama's desire to increase taxes on those who purchase business jets was misplaced.

The governor said at least 30,000 people in Kansas are employed by the aviation industry, and more than 40 percent of general aviation aircraft around the world is built in Kansas. Wichita is home to manufacturing plants for Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft and Bombardier, along with roughly 200 parts suppliers who depend on them.

In December, Hawker received an incentive package from the local and state officials worth some $45 million. Hawker said that it would in turn maintain its current aircraft lines in Wichita and keep at least 4,000 jobs in Kansas during the next 10 years.

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