Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said the bargaining impasse that led to the 58-day Machinists strike "was nothing but a big disappointment" that damaged the finances and reputations of both sides.

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Boeing chairman and chief executive Jim McNerney told employees Monday that the bargaining impasse that led to the 58-day Machinists strike “was nothing but a big disappointment,” and said the company and union need to find a better way to resolve their differences.

“While it may sound cliché, no side ever wins a strike,” McNerney wrote in a message to all employees. “The costs are more than just economic, and the reputations of all parties suffer significantly.

“For the sake of our customers, our company and our employees, we have to find a better way,” he said.

McNerney also called for company-wide productivity improvements in the face of the global economic crisis.

The 27,000 members of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) began returning to work Sunday night after voting Saturday to approve a contract.

McNerney’s comments on the Machinists strike suggest he wants to avoid repeating the pattern in future.

“The fact that it took 58 days to resolve the dispute — let alone the fact that we had a strike at all — reflects the failure of a process that company leaders and union leaders alike need to seriously address,” McNerney wrote. “The path to an agreement was longer and more torturous than any of us wanted.

“In retrospect, we all wish the differences closed at the end could have been closed much sooner. And none of us want to go through this again next time around.”

McNerney said that he is “optimistic” about avoiding a strike in the contract negotiations now underway with Boeing’s engineering union, the Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA).

And he stressed that “the dramatic changes in the economy since the (IAM) strike began on Sept. 6” have created a much tougher business environment.

“The global economic realities that have emerged since the strike began pose significant new challenges for everyone, and they put particular pressure on us to achieve additional productivity improvements,” McNerney said. “We should leave no stone unturned as we seek new and better ways of doing our work.”

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com