Cessna contract accepted by default after Machinists don't get enough votes to strikeBY MOLLY MCMILLIN
The Wichita Eagle
Machinists union members at Cessna Aircraft will head to work instead of the picket line Monday after they failed to get the votes required to strike.
Fifty-eight percent of members voted to reject Cessnas seven-year contract on Saturday, but only 49 percent voted to strike.
Without the two-thirds vote required to approve a strike, the members accepted the contract by default.
We understand the times were in today, said Machinists District 70 directing business representative Steve Rooney at Century II after the votes were counted. A paycheck is a hard thing to give up.
The unions negotiating team had recommended rejection and a strike.
We support this membership entirely, Rooney said.
Cessna chairman, president and CEO Jack Pelton called the contract fair.
We are satisfied to begin this next week with a new contract in place so we can move forward with our efforts to reshape Cessna to be more competitive in a global market and a tough economy, Pelton said in a statement.
We presented the members a contract that was more than fair, given our business environment, Pelton said. And while we are disappointed they rejected the offer, we appreciate the memberships willingness to continue to put the customer first, knowing that will lead to success for all.
The Machinists union represents about 2,400 hourly workers at Cessna.
The current contract expires today. A work stoppage would have begun at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The last time the Machinists struck Cessna was in 1976.
Job security and health care were two main issues with the union.
Members were unhappy the agreement didnt guarantee more work would be kept in Wichita.
The company agreed to keep only final assembly of its Citation products in Wichita for the duration of the contract. That includes installing the wings, engines, avionics and interiors and painting the airplane before delivery to a customer.
Roy Cavender, an 11-year employee, called the contract a lose-lose situation.
From a strike, you lose; if you dont strike, you lose, Cavender said at Century II, where members were voting. You are between a rock and a hard place.
The issues werent about money, said Ron Russell, a 36-year Cessna employee.
I just wanted more job security, Russell said.
I was ready and willing to take it on the chin for wages and stuff, Russell said. But Im not willing to take it in the back. .æ.æ. I see all the takeaways.
Russell said hes wanted to build airplanes since he was a child. Now, hes been told his job is moving to Mexico.
Don Blecha has worked at Cessna for 35 years. His daughter and son-in-law work there as well. His wife and son have been laid off from Cessna.
Blecha said he was ready to strike because he wants more job security for future generations.
There is virtually no job security, Blecha said. Thats the biggest thing to me.
The change in health insurance was also a big issue for Blecha.
With all the changes, its looking like theres not going to be another generation that will have the lifestyle that we had, Blecha said.
In the contract, health care coverage transitions to consumer-based medical, dental and vision plans used by Cessnas nonrepresented workers. Union leadership figures the change raises costs by $4,000 to $5,000 a year.
The insurance isnt any good, said Vince Chace,whos worked at Cessna 13 years.
Jenny Carpenter, a 13-year employee, said that on Monday, she and her co-workers wont know where they will be in seniority, because the contract combines job classifications.
They messed with things they didnt need to mess with, Carpenter said.
In the end, however, workers didnt want to strike.
The contract includes:
*A ratification bonus of $2,500 paid in January and a $1,000 lump-sum payment in 2012.
*No wage increases for the first four years and a 1 percent raise in each of the last three years. A clause allows negotiations to reopen to review wages annually beginning in 2014.
*The potential for performance-based bonuses.
*Retention and a $2 increase per month in pension plan payments, to $57 per month for each year of service.
Its the second time in three months Machinists union members rejected a contract offer but didnt have the votes to strike.
In June, 57 percent of union members at Spirit AeroSystems who voted rejected the company's offer of a 10-year contract. Fifty-eight percent voted to strike, falling short of the two-thirds required for a work stoppage.Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or email@example.com.
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