Aerospace giant Boeing Co's largest union yesterday approved a controversial contract proposal by the slimmest of margins. The controversial contract proposal cuts benefits in exchange for decades of work on a new jetliner, at its home turf Puget Sound, in Washington state.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751, representing over 31,000 Boeing workers in Washington state, voted 51 per cent in favour of a contract for building the 777X, a version of its wide-body jet that affords higher fuel-efficiency.
This comes as the second instance in two months of the union voting on a proposal by Boeing, the biggest private employer in the state with about 82,500 employees and a crucial part of the regional economy.
Even with the local union leadership flatly turning down the proposal last month, the union's national leadership called for the vote yesterday.
Following the rejection of the deal the first time, the company opened a nationwide search to find a potential home for the programme. According to Boeing, it had received incentive-laden proposals from 22 states, including California, in case the union deal did not come through.
"We faced tremendous pressure from every source imaginable influencing how to vote today," said the union local's chief of staff Jim Bearden at a press conference. "The politicians, the media and others - who truly had no right to get into our business - were aligned against us and did their best to influence our peoples' vote."
Under the deal pensions would be frozen starting in 2016, a term that according to Ray Conner, heading Boeing's commercial airplane unit, was non-negotiable.
Bloomberg quoted Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with Teal Group, a Fairfax, Virginia-based consulting firm as saying, this probably took care of a host of problems for years to come.
According to commentators, with the work retained at its commercial hub, Boeing avoided the risk of rushing to build new facilities and training a workforce before a planned 2017 start for 777X production and an initial delivery targeted for 2020.
''We're proud to say that together, we'll build the world's next great airplane -- the 777X and its new wing –- right here,'' Conner said in an e-mailed statement. ''This will put our workforce on the cutting edge of composite technology, while sustaining thousands of local jobs for years to come.''
With Boeing employees building the new jet's fuselage, wing, interiors and other major components, the development marks a break from the global factory concept that was a hallmark of the troubled Boeing 787 Dreamliner.