ATLANTA — Hawker Beechcraft is "moving on" and evaluating its options after Machinists rejected the company's contract offer Saturday, the company's top executive said Monday in an interview with The Eagle.
"We go back and evaluate all the plans and all the alternatives that we developed," CEO Bill Boisture said of the company's reaction to Saturday's vote.
"And we have new information now as a result of the vote. And we'll continue just as we had been making a series of decisions about how to shape the business for the future."
Whether that future includes Wichita is still unclear. Asked whether he would move the company to Louisiana — which reportedly has offered a large incentives package if Hawker Beechcraft relocates — Boisture would not comment.
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"We have an enterprise that's trying to sustain itself profitably, so it's going to be a series of not small decisions," he said.
He said there are no plans to go back to the negotiating table with the union.
Saturday's vote was expected to cement an agreement between Hawker Beechcraft and the state to keep most of its operations and jobs in Wichita. The incentives package put together by Gov. Mark Parkinson, Boisture and union officials was contingent upon a new contract.
"I really appreciate Gov. Parkinson stepping up to try to help the company sustain a large and meaningful presence in Kansas and in Wichita," Boisture said. "He stretched to make this happen for the state of Kansas and the people of Wichita."
But Saturday, 55 percent of union members voting turned down the seven-year contract, expressing anger and cynicism about the company's motives. The contract called for a 10 percent reduction in pay and higher insurance contributions.
Hawker Beechcraft employs 7,000 people, including 6,000 in Wichita. About 2,600 of those are represented by the Machinists. Union officials have not said how many members voted Saturday.
Boisture spoke with The Eagle at the company's display at the DeKalb-Peachtree Airport on the eve of the National Business Aviation Association's 63rd annual convention.
He called the offer to the union a "fair" one. It was fair in that it aligned the union with what nonunion employees have given up in terms of compensation and benefits, he said.
"Nobody likes the economic conditions we're in, and everybody can debate 'fair,' " Boisture said. With the downturn that continues to affect the business jet market, "We think it's ill advised to stand around waiting for the sun to come out" before taking action.
In its agreement with the state, Hawker Beechcraft accepted a package of incentives that would have retained five major manufacturing operations and two-thirds of the Machinists' 2,600 jobs in Wichita. Under the agreement, Hawker Beechcraft would retain 1,718 hourly jobs and eliminate 821 jobs.
The jobs will still be eliminated in the next six to 18 months. The work will move to outside suppliers and to Hawker Beechcraft's facilities in Mexico.
"The return for a positive vote on the proposal (contract) that was offered, the company obligated itself to keep certain key functions in Wichita,'' Boisture said. "And we have no new agreement, and therefore we have no incentive from the state of Kansas and therefore, we will go and decide independent of those two things in the future."
The governor's office said Monday that it still regards the incentives it offered Hawker Beechcraft to be active.
"The state hopes they will return to the bargaining table and reach an agreement that is acceptable to both parties in order to retain all of the Hawker Beechcraft product lines and the majority of jobs in Wichita," Amy Jordan Wooden, the governor's spokeswoman, said in an email.
Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer also hopes for a return to the bargaining table. He said he spent most of Monday trying to reach the company, the union and the governor's office to figure out whether they can restart negotiations.
But he said neither the company nor the union returned his calls.
"It's a cooling off period, I guess," he said.
He said he'd be back at it today.
Boisture said he has respect for the company's long history in Wichita. It was founded as Beech Aircraft Corp. in 1932 by Walter and Olive Ann Beech.
"What we've been trying to do for the last couple of months is, with a combination of assistance from the state of Kansas and achieving a lower- cost, more flexible labor agreement, is reset so we can continue on in the birthplace of the company and build a strong American company out of the difficulties of this long economic downturn,'' he said.
"We delivered what we considered to be our best offer, and disappointingly a few determined at least the considerations for the future of many."