Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Alan Mulally today said the ongoing strike by the company's 18,300 Machinists is the result of "extreme" requests made by inflexible union leaders.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Alan Mulally today said the ongoing strike by the company’s 18,300 Machinists is the result of “extreme” requests made by inflexible union leaders.
“Having barely moved off their original positions, union negotiators were demanding more than $1 billion more than what was in our best and final offer,” Mulally wrote in a lengthy e-mail to Boeing managers.
Mulally said meeting the union’s demands would have been a “disservice to every current and future employee, customer, shareholder and our communities.”
The Machinists dismissed Mulally’s statement as irrelevant.
“Regardless of what Boeing says to their managers, 86 percent of our members said the company did not come close to meeting our expectations on pension, health care, job security and a number of other issues,” the union said in a statement. “The fact is their final offer is a smaller economic and benefit package than the 2002 contract.”
Mulally’s comments were his first since the company made its best-and-final offer on a new three-year contract Aug. 30. Two days later, 86 percent of Machinists rejected the contract and voted to walk off the job.
The message was also Boeing’s first attempt to win over the hearts and minds not only of striking Machinists, but also of other Boeing employees, customers, suppliers and investors troubled by the week-old strike.
Odds of a quick end to the work stoppage appear increasingly slim. Each side is adamant that it is in the right, and that the other side is not interested in realistic negotiations. Nonetheless, the Machinists and Boeing each say they are willing to talk — if the other side changes its position.
“The company spokesman has repeatedly told the media the company is only willing to talk about the final offer, and our members have already let their voices be heard — you resoundingly rejected it by 86 percent,” the International Association of Machinists (IAM) said in a “strike update” Wednesday.
Mulally’s message today said, “Despite our good-faith attempts to reach a resolution, a substantial gap remained in our positions.”
He said the union wanted a 33 percent increase in monthly pension payments, to $80 for each year of service. The current contract pays $60 per month per year of service.
Boeing offered a 10 percent increase, to $66 per month, an amount Mulally called “significant” and the union called “meager.”
Mulally also criticized three union demands that neither side had publicly discussed previously: a “multimillion-dollar contribution to the union’s own pension plan”; a “50 percent increase in our [Voluntary Investment Plan] savings plan match,” and “a position on lump-sum wage payments [that] was even more extreme than its retirement demands.”
Chaz Bickers, a Boeing spokesman, declined to elaborate on Mulally’s statement.
He said no talks between the two sides took place yesterday and none are scheduled.
In other strike-related developments yesterday, Gov. Christine Gregoire said she’s worried the walkout will hurt the state’s economy if it drags on much longer .
Gregoire has talked by telephone to Mulally and Mark Blondin, president of IAM District 751. “Both sides have indicated a willingness to talk,” she said.
“I’m doing my best. I think a quick resolution to the strike is in the best interest of the company, the Machinists and the state,” she said.
Gregoire said she also spoke to state economic forecaster Chang Mook Sohn about the consequences of the strike.
“We can withstand the strike for a couple of weeks but not much beyond that,” she said. “And I for one, having been a negotiator myself, know full well the longer things go on, the more entrenched the sides become.”
Information from Seattle Times staff reporter Andrew Garber is contained in this report. David Bowermaster: 206-464-2724 or firstname.lastname@example.org