Boeing strike threatens global aero industry

Business Materials 8 September 2008 08:00 (UTC +04:00)

Boeing Co's 27,000 machinists prepared for a third day of strike action, halting production at the plane maker's Seattle-area plants in protest at Boeing's contract offer and what they see as plans to shift more jobs to non-union and foreign companies.

The fourth strike in 20 years by Boeing's biggest union threatens to cost the company $100 million (55.8 million pounds) a day in revenue and is likely to cause problems for a long list of suppliers across the world in an increasingly global aerospace business.

On Sunday, about 15 picketers milled about the main entrance to Boeing's Everett, Washington plant, which usually employs 13,000 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

"It's not about the money, it's all about the subcontracting wordage," said picketer Butch Blount, a 53-year-old motor equipment operator, handing out cookies to fellow strikers. "My job is one they could possibly offload to a subcontractor."

The IAM, whose members call themselves the "Fighting Machinists", is looking for higher pay and better benefits from Boeing, but is particularly worried about language put in the contract in 2002, when times were lean in the aerospace industry, which gave Boeing the power to use outside companies for work usually done by IAM members.

Boeing took advantage of that to widen its base of suppliers for its newest plane, the 787 Dreamliner, which is being made by companies around the world and only assembled in Everett. The union says Boeing has got rid of 16,000 IAM members since 1990 with the progressive increase in outsourcing.

"We understand our jobs are going away," said John Jorgensen, 62, a final assembly mechanic who has worked at Boeing for 43 years. "If we don't get subcontracting language protection (now), we'll never get it. We have Boeing loyalty, but the top of the company has no loyalty to us."

Union members in the nearby IAM hall said there would be more action early on Monday Seattle time, when greater numbers of picketers are expected at the plant's gates to see if workers attempt to cross the picket line, Reuters reported.