Reed Saxon/APBy MIKE BAKER
SEATTLE — Leaders in the International Association of Machinists publicly differed Friday on whether to bring Boeing’s (BA) latest contract offer to a vote, exposing tensions within the union over how to handle the high-stakes negotiations.
National union spokesman Frank Larkin said Friday that officials were exploring the idea after hundreds of members demanded an opportunity to vote on the contract to secure work on the 777X airplane. Larkin said members have always had the final say and that they have every right to vote on the terms of the offer.
But local union officials said Friday they don’t see any point in bringing it to a vote because it’s too similar to a contract the union rejected a month ago.
“So, until Boeing changes its conditions, we don’t have an offer to vote on,” said District 751 President Tom Wroblewski in a statement.
A latest round of contract talks collapsed Thursday after local officials with the Machinists said they couldn’t recommend Boeing’s latest proposal to members. Local Machinists spokesman Bryan Corliss says Boeing has withdrawn the contract offer.
Boeing spokesman Doug Alder, however, said the offer was rejected by the union, not withdrawn. He declined further comment Friday.
Local union officials have seemed to disagree with their national leaders in recent weeks on how to handle Boeing’s offers. That division was clear last month, when local union members voted to reject a contract negotiated by IAM leadership.
Boeing and the Machinists have been exploring a deal that would secure the production of the new 777X airplane in the Puget Sound and the thousands of jobs that come with it.
This week, Boeing made some changes to its original contract offer, backing away from a proposal that would slow the rate at which employees rise up the pay scale and adding an additional $5,000 in bonus pay. The biggest sticking point appears to be the company’s insistence that workers move from a traditional defined-benefit pension to a defined-contribution savings plan.
The local machinists said the company’s latest proposal was too high of a price to pay to secure the 777X.
“I think you’ll agree these were very minor changes, and not nearly enough to offset the things Boeing was trying to take away from you, and for the Machinists who will join us in the future,” Wroblewski wrote in a message to members Friday morning.
Looming over the talks is the prospect that the company could build the airplane elsewhere. Boeing said it has received proposals from 22 states eager for the 777X jobs, with some proposing multiple sites. The company said 54 sites are now being evaluated.
In its own bid to win the 777X jobs, Washington state recently approved tax breaks for Boeing valued at $9 billion over the coming years, along with legislation to improve aerospace training programs and the permitting process.
Chicago-based Boeing began offering the 777X in May, but it’s still finalizing plans for the plane and aiming to deliver the first aircraft by the end of the decade. Boeing has said it is expected to carry as many as 400 passengers and be more fuel efficient than the current 777.
At the Dubai Airshow last month, Boeing received orders for 225 such planes from three airlines.