Wichita Members of the machinists union at Cessna Aircraft failed to muster enough votes Saturday to strike as their union leaders had recommended.
Union spokesman Bob Wood said 58 percent of voters rejected the contract, but only 49 percent voted to strike. A simple majority is needed to approve the contract, but it takes a two-thirds majority to authorize a strike.
Because a strike wasn’t authorized, the contract will be accepted by default.
“Our union is a democracy and the members made the decision, and we stand behind that decision,” Wood told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “We do understand these are tough times. People are scared for their jobs.”
The company has called the seven-year contract offer “very fair” given the extraordinary challenges in the economy and aircraft industry. But the union says workers are concerned about a lack of job security and an increase in health care costs.
The union represents about 2,500 machinists at its Wichita plant whose contract was set to expire Sunday.
The last time the machinists struck at Cessna was in 1978. That strike lasted two weeks.
Cessna’s offer contains no wage increase in the first four years, with a 1 percent raise for some but not all workers in the final three years. There also are annual cost-of-living increases throughout the life of the contract. It includes a ratification bonus of $2,500 paid in January 2011 and a lump sum payment of $1,000 in January 2012.
But the union has balked at switching to a health care plan that would increase costs for many employees.
Cessna spokesman Bob Stangarone said the offer preserves current wages and pensions and offers a competitive health care plan.
“It’s critically important to understand that we’re competing globally in a very challenging economy,” he told The Wichita Eagle.