Machinists, Textron consider negotiating a single contract

08/18/2014 5:45 PM

08/18/2014 5:49 PM

Textron Aviation and its biggest union, the Machinists, are exploring whether to open up contract negotiations to bring Beechcraft and Cessna Aircraft under one bargaining agreement.

“We’re exploring that with the company,” said Tom Buffenbarger, the Machinists union’s international president. “I think they (Textron Aviation) would like a single unifying contract where we could bring both groups under a single contract.”

Textron, Cessna’s parent company, closed the deal to buy Beechcraft in March and formed Textron Aviation.

The Machinists represent 2,494 hourly workers at Cessna under Local Lodge 774. Across town, the union represents 1,627 hourly workers at Beechcraft under Local Lodge 733.

Beechcraft’s current five-year labor agreement expires in 2016; Cessna’s seven-year agreement expires in 2017.

There’s been discussions with Textron Aviation officials about the possibility of opening contract negotiations, said Frank Molina, directing business representative of the Machinists District 70. But no dates have been set.

Textron Aviation officials would not comment.

“I don’t know whether we will ultimately sit down and open up negotiations or not,” Molina said. “We’re not interested in takeaways. That’s just something we’re not interested in at all.”

If a decision is made not to negotiate, “we’ll let the contracts run their course,” Molina said.

Combining the two groups into one would be difficult, Molina said, because the contracts are differ significantly.

Both address similar items, such as retirement, wages, seniority and a host of other work-related issues. But the details around them are “night and day,” Molina said.

“It’s a huge challenge,” he said. “For us to step out there and make something like that happen is monumental.”

Committees from the two union lodges came together to see if they could work out something both groups could approve.

“Surprisingly, they did,” Molina said. “They did unbelievable work.”

Any proposal ultimately agreed upon during formal negotiations would be subject to approval by the members.

Bringing the two groups together under a single agreement could be beneficial, Molina said.

“It depends on how that’s worked out, but there could be big pluses to it,” he said. “We’re not taking this lightly at all.”

Textron is not afraid to invest in aviation and new products, he said.

“They never backed off of reinvesting back into Cessna,” Molina said.

For the union, “we want to keep new aircraft flying,” he said. “That’s what keeps us working.”

The union is setting out to see if there is a way to work out a single contract.

It’s not about money, Molina said.

“It’s a lot more to do with keeping Wichita running,” he said.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mmcmillin.

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