Boeing, Machinists Talks To Resume

Plane maker and its striking machinists union have agreed to return to the bargaining table, both sides said, with a federal mediator to help hammer out the details.

SEATTLE (AP) -- The Boeing Co. and its striking machinists union have agreed to return to the bargaining table, both sides said Wednesday night.

A federal mediator will help hammer out details of the resumed negotiations. Union members walked out Sept. 6 in a contract dispute.

"We've been keeping the lines of communication open since the strike, and we've agreed to pursue additional talks through a federal mediator," company spokesman Tim Healy said. "We're interested in exploring whether there's a path forward to resolve the strike."

The International Association of Machinists, which represents about 27,000 workers in Washington, Oregon and Kansas, walked out after rejecting a contract offer over concerns about job security, pay, health care and retirement benefits. The electricians, mechanics, painters and other hourly workers represented by the union assemble Boeing commercial jets.

"We hope this meeting marks a major step forward," the union said in a statement to its members. It urged them to "stay strong on the picket lines. That's how we're going to secure a contract that will settle this strike."

On Monday, an analyst said the strike is expected to cost Boeing about 21 aircraft deliveries and up to 15 cents per share in earnings for every two weeks it continues.

Boeing reported last week that deliveries are way off, largely due to the strike. The company delivered 84 737s, 747s, 767s and 777s in the third quarter, down from a pre-strike forecast of 119 planes.

Boeing's commercial airplane operations, based in the Seattle area, have led a resurgence by the company over the past two years amid heavy orders for the much-awaited and increasingly delayed 787 jetliner. Even before the walkout, Boeing was scrambling to meet a revised schedule to begin test flights of the new plane late this year. That timetable has now become virtually impossible to meet.

The agreement to resume talks followed a meeting in Everett, north of Seattle, between lead negotiators for Boeing and the machinists.

Tom Wroblewski, president of Machinists District 751, said the union told Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Scott Carson at the meeting that it was concerned the company didn't understand its positions on job security and outsourcing.

Wroblewski declined to discuss other specifics of the talk, saying he didn't want to negotiate through the media. But he said, "they listened and it was agreed that we meet" to resume negotiations.

Boeing Chief Executive W. James McNerney sent a memo to employees this week that said strikes by the Machinists union -- this is the third since 1995 -- have hurt the Chicago-based company's reputation for reliability and threatened the nation's aerospace industry with a fate similar to that of automakers in Detroit.

He said it would be unwise for Boeing "to agree to terms in any contract that would fundamentally restrict our ability to manage our business."

The union has acknowledged the need for Boeing to be able to outsource, but it argues that a "vast amount" of outsourced work could be done more efficiently by its members.

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