Machinists OK Bombardier contract

Machinists union members at Bombardier Learjet overwhelmingly ratified the company's three-year contract on Saturday.

Ninety-five percent of the members voting approved the offer.

The union represents nearly 900 hourly employees in Wichita. The current labor agreement expires Monday.

Union negotiators recommended ratification of the contract.

The agreement recognizes the issues members said were important, said Machinists District 70 president Steve Rooney. Members also recognize the fact that the economy is in a downturn, he said.

The contract increases wages and pension benefits and addresses concerns with health insurance and job security, he said.

"So it's a win-win for both sides," Rooney said.

The company is pleased with the results, said Bombardier spokeswoman Danielle Boudreau.

"We believe the agreement is... one that recognizes our employees fairly for their contributions and positions our company for success going forward," Boudreau said. "We do look forward to the long-term success of the company and working with all our employees."

The economy played a factor in the offer and its acceptance, members said.

"I think it's kind of the best we're going to get right now," said Brian Flatterich, a sheet metal mechanic at Bombardier. "I'm just thankful I have a job."

Debra Hotchkiss, who works in interiors at Bombardier, said she was surprised the offer was as good as it was.

"For the economy, I think the company treated us pretty good," she said.

Some members said that the fact they struck the company for the first time three years ago helped their position by showing they had the resolve for a work stoppage.

The contract ratified on Saturday includes wage increases of 2 percent the first year and 3 percent in each of the next two years.

It increases pensions by $6 to $50 a month for each year worked. And it retains employees' share in the cost of health insurance for the first two years at 15 percent of the cost. In 2012, that share increases to 20 percent.

It also includes a new plan with a 15 percent employee contribution.

The contract also increases the number of weeks workers are entitled to severance pay if they are laid off as a result of outsourcing or offloading. And it extends recall rights.