Talks between Boeing and the striking Machinists union have broken off, and prospects for resolving the 38-day-old strike have receded.

Share story

Contract talks between Boeing and Machinists broke down Monday afternoon as the two sides deadlocked over the issue of outsourcing the jobs of union members who deliver parts to the assembly lines.

The negotiations adjourned indefinitely without agreement, just a day after the two sides resumed talking through a mediator in an attempt to resolve the five-week-old strike.

International Association of Machinists district president Tom Wroblewski said the union “had hoped Boeing would come to the table looking to resolve this strike.”

“However, this was not the case,” said Wroblewski. “The union will continue to look for ways to resolve this strike … but it cannot be at the price of selling out thousands of our members’ jobs.”

Boeing issued a statement by its top labor negotiator, Doug Kight, Boeing vice president of human resources.

“In light of the current business environment and global market challenges we face, we had hoped we could find a way to move forward. We worked very hard to find solutions, and we are extremely disappointed that the talks broke off,” said Kight.

The breakdown was over outsourcing.

Boeing has contended that it needs complete flexibility to outsource work both for cost reasons and to secure sales from foreign airlines.

The union has demanded protection of jobs within the local plants, including facilities maintenance work and delivery of parts to the assembly mechanics.

In its statement, the IAM said Boeing was unwilling to guarantee parts delivery jobs.

“The Union currently has 2,000 members involved in material delivery, inventory, distribution of parts, materials, equipment, etc.,” the IAM statement said. “It has become apparent that the long-term strategy of The Boeing Company is to eliminate these IAM positions and replace the Union workers with outside suppliers. … It is a systematic attack on the employees who have generated unprecedented success for Boeing.”

Boeing’s Kight framed the same issue as crucial to Boeing’s competitiveness.

“We want to resolve this strike so employees can return to work,” he continued, “but we cannot sacrifice our ability to continuously improve productivity and our long-term competitiveness for an agreement. Given current economic conditions, it is now more important than ever that we retain the ability to respond to a dynamic, uncertain environment.”

“The ongoing turmoil in the financial markets provides a reminder of why it would be unwise for Boeing to agree to terms in any contract that would restrict our ability to manage our business,” Kight said.

The 27,000-member Machinist union went on strike Sept. 6, and there had been no full-fledged talks between the company and the union until Sunday. The strike is on day 38 and prospects for a resolution look worse now than before the talks resumed.

dgates @seattletimes.com (206) 464-2963