Thousands of Machinists union employees at Hawker Beechcraft Corp. (HBC), who have been on strike since Aug. 3, ratified a new three-year contract Thursday and will return to work on Tuesday following the Labor Day holiday.
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union officials said 77% of members voting cast their ballots for acceptance of the new contract, which provides wage increases of 4 percent each year of the new agreement. The annual 4 percent wage boosts were part of the company´s original offer, which union members rejected by a 90% margin. But the agreement ratified Thursday freezes workers´ premiums for health care coverage at current levels for the next three years.
The company also agreed to increase pension benefits and to drop proposals that would have reduced the amount of earned time off for new employees.
The union represents some 4,700 of HBC´s 8,000 workers in Wichita and another 500 at a smaller plant in Salina, Kan. The strike was the first against the company (formerly known as Beech Aircraft and Raytheon Aircraft Company) since 1984. HBC issued a very brief statement, saying the company "looks forward to all employees returning to work after Labor Day under the new contract."
An HBC spokesman declined to say what effect the strike had on aircraft production, but it´s expected to result in a significant decline in aircraft deliveries in the third quarter.
The company delivered 201 new aircraft in the first half of the year, including 129 in the second quarter and has invested heavily in new facilities in the past couple of years in an attempt to ramp up production rates. HBC has seen a strong influx of orders for its three new business jets - the Hawker 750, 900 and 4000 - which pushed total backlog to $ 7.4 billion at the end of June.
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