Boeing Co., machinists upbeat as intense contract talks continue

Saturday, August 20, 2005

SEATAC, Wash. -- Boeing Co. and its biggest union said bargaining teams were making good progress after the first week of intense contract talks, though tough issues remained on the table.

Boeing spokesman Charles Bickers said talks have been "purposeful and respectful."

"We're really building a solid foundation as we go forward," Bickers said.

Neither side would go into detail about the discussions.

"All the subcommittees and the main table are continuing to meet, having good dialogue on the issues and exchanging proposals," said Connie Kelliher, spokeswoman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Neither side would go into detail about the discussions.

The machinists union, which represents about 18,400 production workers in the Seattle area, Wichita and Portland, Ore., has said its top concerns are pensions, health care and job security.

In a statement posted to its contract talks Web site Thursday, Chicago-based Boeing hinted that job security has been a sticking point.

"We recognize that a main concern for the union is job security, as it was three years ago when the market was in a major downturn," the company statement said. "Although the aerospace market is recovering, there are no guarantees. As a company we're focused on increasing competitiveness, which is our only job security."

Three years ago, when machinists rejected Boeing's contract offer but didn't muster enough votes to go on strike, Boeing turned down a proposal tying employment levels to aircraft deliveries.

Kelliher said a machinists' rally at Angle Lake on Sunday would likely provide union leaders' only public comments about negotiations until they recommend how members cast their ballots Sept. 1. The current contract expires at 12:01 a.m. Sept. 2.

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