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Boeing machinists will vote tomorrow on offer

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

Boeing machinists are prepared to sign a new contract since the company management retracted several proposed takeaways and agreed to focus on issues important to the striking workers.

“It’s best for everybody if we’re back at work and serving our customers. This offer is a reasonable offer that represents compromise on both sides,” Boeing spokesman Chaz Bickers said, adding the offer is restructured “to focus on issues that are more valuable to them.”

When machinists vote tomorrow, they’ll be deciding on a contract that preserves the current healthcare plan and a retiree medical benefit plan. The contract offer rejected by the union earlier this month would have increased out-of-pocket medical expenses, would have changed the retiree medical benefit for those younger than 50 and would have eliminated the retiree medical benefit completely for new hires, among other things.

In addition to the changes, the new contract also includes a 12 percent cost-of-living adjustment and two bonus payments of $3,000 each due on Dec. 1, 2006 and Dec. 1, 2007. The contract is good for three years.

Bickers said the new contract is a win in the company’s eyes.

“This works for the company. It’ll cost more, but it’s a similar value,” he said, adding some of the machinists’ higher priorities, like pensions and healthcare, would be paid for by cutting some of their lower priorities, such as general wage increases and a performance incentive.

“It is an improved offer,” Bickers said. “Clearly, the union feels it meets their requirements because they recommended it. We’re looking forward to Thursday. We want to get back to tbuilding airplanes, which is what we’re good at.”

Machinists from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751began the strike just before Labor Day, on Sept. 1. About 17,000 machinists in the Puget Sound area are striking. There are 480 who live in Federal Way.

Machinists spokeswoman Connie Kelliher said if the contract is ratified tomorrow, it’ll be the second-shortest strike in the union’s history. The longest was 140 days in 1948. The shortest was 19 days in 1965.

Kelliher said the union was proud of its members, who “stood together to do the right thing. With this offer, there was movement on every one of the top issues,” she said. “Certainly the first offer (Boeing) brought was something they couldn’t live with. They really stood together.”

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

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