Mediator sides with Hawker

A federal mediator has ruled in favor of Hawker Beechcraft in a dispute with the Machinists union over the use of an outside vendor that replaced 300 hourly jobs.

Union and company officials met with an arbitrator in January.

In April 2009, Hawker Beechcraft replaced its material handlers, material clerks and truck drivers and outsourced the work to Aerospace Logistics Services.

The union alleged the company abused the subcontracting language of its labor agreement when it brought outside workers in-house to do the work.

About 200 workers were laid off. Others had seniority rights and took jobs in other areas of the plant.

About 65 accepted jobs with Aerospace Logistics. Their wages were cut in half, the union has said.

Hawker Beechcraft confirmed that the arbitrator ruled that the company did not violate the agreement but declined to comment on the finding.

"The employees out there are very, very disappointed," said Rita Rogers, Machinists District 70 assistant directing business representative. "The employees feel like no one is really concerned about what is going on with our American jobs, jobs in Wichita and in Salina.... Every day we're losing jobs."

Hawker Beechcraft is closing Plants 1 and 2 in Wichita and moving the work, along with King Air back shop work in Plant 4, to Mexico and to U.S. suppliers. It's also closing its Salina plant.

The actions will eliminate 800 jobs by August.

Hawker Beechcraft has issued two rounds of 60-day layoff notices to 267 Wichita employees, according to the Department of Labor. It's also issued layoff notices to 50 Salina employees.

Some of the hourly employees will have bumping rights into other departments, Rogers said.

It's difficult for the workers to watch their machines being wrapped up and sent out the door, she said.

"The employees have done nothing wrong but try to be productive, good employees and good neighbors," Rogers said.

Hawker Beechcraft officials have said the move is necessary to lower costs to compete and be profitable.

For its part, the union will keep fighting the outsourcing of U.S. jobs, Rogers said.

"It's not just our fight," she said. "We're fighting for our community, our good jobs and our welfare. It's our future."