Hawker Beechcraft machinists vote on new contract

AP News
Posted: Oct 16, 2010 3:20 PM
Hawker Beechcraft machinists vote on new contract

Machinists at Hawker Beechcraft voted Saturday on a new seven-year contract offer that included a 10 percent pay cut and other concessions aimed at keeping the company from moving all its operations out of Kansas.

The airplane maker's union has recommended its members accept the contract to protect two-thirds of the remaining jobs. The state has guaranteed those jobs and promised tuition assistance for workers who lose jobs.

The contract requires a simple majority for approval, and there is no strike vote.

Gov. Mark Parkinson brokered a deal last week to keep five major production lines in Wichita after reports emerged that Louisiana had offered the debt-ridden aircraft maker millions in incentives to lure its 6,000 jobs to Baton Rouge. Kansas' incentives are contingent on the company reaching a long-term contract with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Some 350 salaried employees will be laid off by Nov. 1. In addition, the union has estimated about 820 hourly jobs in its bargaining unit would be eliminated under the proposed contract.

But the union says some 1,718 machinists would keep their jobs.

Hawker Beechcraft has cited Parkison's "decisive action" in staying in Kansas, saying if the company can combine the state investment with its own changes and a new, long-term contract it would be in a much more stable position.

The contract would include a provision reopening it in 2014 for the limited purpose of evaluating wage increases, pension and other benefits. The average pay at the company is now $27 an hour.

Pension benefits would remain unchanged, but employees would progressively shouldering a greater share of their health care insurance costs.

Talks between the company and the union on a new contract began in August, a year before the current contract was set to expire.

Since the last contract was approved two years ago, Hawker Beechcraft has said it will close its Salina plant and issued several rounds of layoff notices at its Wichita facility. The machinists union now represents about 2,600 workers, compared to 5,200 in 2008.