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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Boeing, Machinists union in talks over terms of closing Wichita facility

By Molly McMillin
The Wichita Eagle

The Machinists union and Boeing have begun the process of effects bargaining, negotiating the benefits and processes affecting Wichita’s hourly workers as the company closes the facility.

They have discussed issues such as dates of closure, relocation packages, medical coverage and pension.

Right now, “everything is fluid,” said Michael Burleigh, a business representative for the Machinists’ District 70. He said more meetings will be scheduled.

The union represents about 325 of Boeing Wichita’s 2,100 employees.

“This is a very emotional time for everyone, and this process should not be rushed through,” Steve Rooney, Machinists union District 70 directing business representative, said in a statement.

The union has requested additional information from Boeing and wants to receive it before proceeding, the union said.

Boeing announced in January that it would close the Wichita site by the end of 2013. The work will move program by program to other sites.

Wichita’s work will move to Oklahoma City and San Antonio. A tanker refinishing center planned for Wichita will now go to the Puget Sound area in Washington state.

The union’s goal is to have represented employees placed in jobs at one of Boeing’s sites if they are willing to relocate, officials said.

“We’re working hard for the union and the families that are being impacted,” Burleigh said. “We want to find places for them.”

About 200 Machinists-represented employees from Wichita are on loan to other Boeing locations, including about 180 workers who have temporarily transferred to the Everett, Wash., area working on a variety of programs, Burleigh said.

Boeing plans to add 2,000 to 3,000 workers there, Burleigh said. They are hiring about 100 hourly workers a week, he said.

The Wichita facility will need employees to stay here until programs are completed, and Boeing seems willing to wait before adding them to other locations, Burleigh said. It knows the employees are highly trained and skilled.

“But that’s the company’s call,” Burleigh said of the wait.

So far, the union doesn’t know how many employees Boeing will need in San Antonio or Oklahoma City, Burleigh said.

For Wichita workers who can’t or don’t want to move, the union will talk with local companies to see whether they can hire them.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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