PLANT

Bombardier Learjet ends month-long walkout

New contract cuts health insurance deductions for 825 workers at Kansas aerospace plant.


WICHITA, Kan.—Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers have approved a five-year contract with Bombardier Learjet, putting an end to a month-long walkout.

Bombardier spokeswoman Peggy Gross said the new deal received about 70% support from union members. The union, which represents about 825 workers, had recommended that members support the contract.

“We are satisfied with the outcome of the vote and are confident in moving forward and continuing to work with all of our employees,” said Ralph Acs, vice-president and general manager of Bombardier Learjet.

The agreement was reached last Thursday with the help of federal mediators.

“The strike is over, we’ve taken down the picket lines and people will be returning to work,” union spokesman Bob Wood said.

Machinists walked off the job Oct. 8 after rejecting a five-year contract offer over the length of the proposal and an increase in health insurance costs. The new contract is similar to the earlier offer in that there is no wage increase for the first year and a 1% wage bump for the next four years.

But the approved contract includes a larger signing bonus of $2,500.

Health care was the primary issue that caused the strike, and was the focus of the mediation, the union said. The employee’s share of the health insurance premium was reduced from 30% to 20%, with an extra 5% savings for those who participate in the wellness program—reducing their share to 15%.

Union officials estimate the health care improvements mean an employee with single coverage will see a $700 annual reduction in health insurance deductions. Employees with family coverage will see a $2,300 annual savings compared to the company’s pre-strike offer, the union said.

In 2006, machinists were on strike for three weeks in the first work stoppage in the plant’s history.

©The Canadian Press