Log Out | Member Center



Learjet Machinists to vote on revised contract offer

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, at 8:57 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, at 7:32 a.m.

It’s decision day for striking Machinists at Bombardier Learjet.

Machinists union members vote Saturday on whether to accept the company’s latest contract offer and end a five-week strike.

Members walked off the job Oct. 8 after rejecting a five-year labor proposal. Their main sticking point was significant increases to their health care premiums.

The union’s Local Lodge 639 represents 825 hourly workers at Bombardier’s Learjet plant in west Wichita. That’s about one-fourth of the plant’s 3,500 employees.

A federal mediator asked both parties to return to the negotiating table and talks resumed this week. He was instrumental in helping both sides reach an agreement, the union said. Health care was the primary focus of those negotiations, it said.

Voting is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Machinists District No. 70 office, 3830 S. Meridian. Results should be available by 3 p.m.

Union negotiators have recommended members accept the new proposal, calling it “substantially improved” over the one rejected last month. If the offer is approved, the picketing will stop immediately and work will resume Monday, although strikers will have until Nov. 30 to return to work.

A simple majority is needed to accept or reject the proposal. If rejected, the strike continues.

This is the second — and longest — strike in the plant’s history in Wichita. The union struck the company for three weeks in 2006.

The new offer is for five years, the same length as the initial proposal. Wage increases are also the same as the first proposal — no wage increases in the contract’s first year, with a 1 percent increase in each of the next four years.

The new proposal increases the lump-sum payout to employees in the first year of the contract to $2,500 from $1,500 in the earlier proposal. It also includes a $1,000 lump-sum payment in the second year with potential payouts through an employee incentive plan in years 3, 4 and 5.

If approved, the company will pay the first-year’s payout on Wednesday.

Compared to the rejected proposal, the new offer lowers the cost of health care premiums for hourly workers and increases the company’s share of costs.

For example, it includes a point-of-service and health savings account options, with 80-20 premium sharing in the first year and 75-25 premium sharing in each of the remaining years. The proposal also adds two wellness plans with 85-15 percent split of premiums in all five years of the contract.

“The wellness programs make a big difference,” said Machinists spokesman Bob Wood.

If the contract is approved, both parties agree to use “all reasonable and best efforts to recover aircraft delivery schedules” between now and the end of the year, according to a memo of understanding on a strike settlement by the two parties.

The company also agreed not to take any reprisals or recriminatory actions against workers. And it will reimburse strikers for medical costs incurred during the strike, although they must contribute their normal health care premiums for the strike’s duration.

Employees who paid for COBRA insurance continuation coverage may request a refund.

Picketers won’t be able to use vacation or accrued time off to cover any of their absences during the strike. They also will not have accrued either one through the strike’s duration.

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

Subscribe to our newsletters

The Wichita Eagle welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views. Please see our commenting policy for more information.

Have a news tip? You can send it to wenews@wichitaeagle.com.

Search for a job


Top jobs