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Archive for Sunday, August 3, 2008

Union rejects Hawker Beechcraft contract, plans strike for Monday

August 3, 2008

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— Members of the Machinists union at Hawker Beechcraft voted Saturday to reject a three-year contract and go on strike, as their negotiators had recommended.

Machinists spokesman Bob Wood said 90 percent of the membership voted to reject the offer and 89 percent voted to go on strike. He said turnout was high, although the union would not release specific numbers, and he called it "a very unusually high strike vote."

The current contract for about 4,700 hourly workers at the Wichita plant and 500 more in Salina expires today at midnight. The work stoppage will begin Monday.

A simple majority was needed to accept the offer. A two-thirds majority was needed to authorize a strike.

The company said it was disappointed with the union membership's decision.

"The company's offer was the best offer made to employees in more than 20 years," Hawker Beechcraft said in a written statement.

"The company addressed every major issue brought to the bargaining table by union leadership, as the proposed package contains increased wages, more choices in health care plans, and improved medical, dental, vision and pension benefits."

Wood said sticking points included health care, pension benefits and a salary disparity between Hawker workers and what their peers are paid at Cessna Aircraft.

"This is the lowest paid of all the aircraft companies in Wichita, and they're wanting to start catching up," he said.

On Friday, workers protested the offer by blowing whistles during lunch and other breaks.

Under the proposed deal, union members would have a choice of health care plans, but their premiums would rise, Wood said.

The proposal includes

4 percent pay raises in each of the contract's three years, a $2 a year increase in the pension plan and increased vacation.

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