SEATTLE - Is there still a chance that Puget Sound-area machinists could reach agreement with Boeing (BA) to handle much of the work on the company's new 777X jet? Hours after it appeared that negotiations between the company and the union had collapsed, there were more questions than answers.
A national Machinists union negotiator
told The Seattle Times late Thursday that union members should get a chance to
make their own decision on what Boeing
called its "best and final counterproposal."
Local Machinist union leaders said in
a statement that they could not recommend that offer because "the price
was too high."
Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee said he
would continue talking with both sides.
"Despite today's setback, I
remain convinced that an agreement between the Machinists and Boeing would be in the best interest of all
parties -- the workers, the company and Washington state," he said in a
statement. "We have submitted our state's proposal and I still hope that
the company will recognize that the best way to ensure that the 777X is
delivered to its customers on time and at the least cost is to build it
Boeing said it has received
proposals from 22 states eager for the 777X jobs.
"Our members are very
sophisticated and smart on this matter," Rich Michalski, who represented
the national leadership of the International Association of Machinists in the
talks, told The Times.
"Once we get the information on
the offer to them, they will let us know," Michalski said. "We really
need to hear from our members."
Earlier in the day, Tom Wroblewski,
president of local Machinists District 751, said his members want to build the
777X. "However, the price Boeing
demanded was too high," he said in a statement. "Our senior
leadership team could not recommend Boeing's
He called Boeing's
new offer "mostly unchanged" from the 777X jobs proposal union
members rejected last month by a 2-to-1 margin, in part because it would have
replaced workers' traditional defined-benefit pension with a
defined-contribution savings plan.
Boeing Co. spokesman Doug
Alder said the revised proposal presented Thursday included previously proposed
"changes to the way members earn future retirement benefits," meaning
a defined-contribution plan, but it withdrew an earlier proposal to
dramatically slow wage growth for new hires. The new offer would have kept in
place the current rate at which employees rise to the top of the pay scale.
Boeing's offer was
contingent on union leaders recommending acceptance, Wroblewski said.
"This we could not do," he
said. "Our members had already rejected this."
In a telephone interview late Thursday
night, Boeing's Alder declined to characterize
anything said about contingencies, but declared, "The offer is on the
table and that remains in the hands of the union.
"The offer has not been
withdrawn," he added, "It's up to the union to decide whether to put
it to a vote or not."
Bryan Corliss, a spokesman for
Machinists District 751, said late Thursday that local union officials were
trying to reach Michalski.
An Associated Press call to union
headquarters in Maryland was not immediately returned.
Other states are "lined up"
to take the 777X jobs away from Washington, Michalski told The Times.
"Our members are aware of
that," he said, adding that union members must "look at the facts,
the situation as it is."
Michalski insisted there is no
difference of opinion between the national union leadership and local union
"We've listened to the union
leadership and had an open dialogue in hopes of moving toward each other,"
Ray Conner, president and CEO of Boeing
Commercial Airplanes, said Thursday. "Unfortunately, the offer, which
would have ensured this great airplane for the Puget Sound region, was
immediately rejected by the union leadership."
The union and the company reopened
talks Tuesday, which was also Boeing's
deadline for other states to submit proposals to build the new jet.
Alder said the company's focus now is
on moving forward in the site selection process.
On top of a previously offered $10,000
signing bonus, employees would have received an additional lump sum bonus of
$5,000 in Boeing's counterproposal,
The company would have committed to
placing final assembly of the 777X, as well as the fabrication and assembly of
the airplane's composite wing, at a Boeing
location in the Puget Sound area. In addition, a separate agreement committing
to final assembly of the 737 MAX at the Renton, Wash., site would have been
extended through 2024.
After the Machinists rejected the
initial proposal Nov. 13, Boeing
immediately began soliciting bids across the country. Lawmakers in Missouri
held a special session to approve incentives in hopes of landing the 777X work.
Boeing said Thursday that
many states submitted multiple sites for consideration. The company said 54
sites are now being evaluated.
In its own bid to win the 777X jobs,
Washington state recently approved tax breaks for Boeing
valued at $9 billion over the coming years, along with legislation to improve
aerospace training programs and the permitting process.
Chicago-based Boeing began offering the 777X in May, but
it's still finalizing plans for the plane and aiming to deliver the first
aircraft by the end of the decade. Boeing
has said it is expected to carry as many as 400 passengers and be more fuel
efficient than the current 777.
At the Dubai Airshow last month, Boeing received orders for 225 such planes
from three airlines.