LOS ANGELES A divided International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) union narrowly approved an eight-year contract extension that will ensure continued production of Boeing Co.s 777 airliner, as well as its new derivative 777X in the Pacific Northwest.
Boeing employees representing 30,000 IAM members in Washington, Portland, Ore., and Wichita, Kan., voted 51 percent to accept the Chicago-based companys most recent proposal, which would extend their current contract to 2024 from 2016 while accepting significant concessions that will replace traditional defined-benefit pensions with defined-contribution, 401(k)-type retirement schemes.
Before the vote, Boeing was evaluating proposals from 22 states representing 54 sites for production of the 777X and the new wing. The company said in December that it was narrowing these candidates "down to a handful," a process it expected to be completed early this year (amm.com, Dec. 18).
The final assembly site for the 777 is Boeings Everett, Wash., facility.
The leadership of the IAMs largest Boeing local union, District 751 in Seattle, was against holding a third vote after the aerospace giants proposals were rejected twice. But a majority of members insisted on the vote being held.
The IAMs international leadership had no recommendation on the extension, although it supported the local members right to a third vote, an IAM spokesman at the unions headquarters in Washington, D.C., said.
"It was a controversial proposal on either side," he said. He maintained, however, that "too much has been made" of the rift between generally younger IAM members who supported the extension in order to maintain their role on the 777 and older members intent on preserving their traditional pensions.
The contract extension means the 777X and its composite wing will be built in the Puget Sound area by IAM members, Boeing said, noting that this includes construction of the fuselage, the planes final assembly in Everett and the fabrication of major components such as interiors and wires.
"This will put our work force on the cutting edge of composite technology, while sustaining thousands of local jobs for years to come," Ray Conner, president and chief executive officer of the companys Boeing Commercial Airplanes unit, said.
Fabrication of a new composite wing from its present aluminum construction would presumably bring the titanium content of the 777X above the present models estimated titanium buy weight of about 150,000 pounds, according to industry estimates, since composites are normally associated with greater use of titanium.