SEATTLE -- The Boeing Co. and its Machinists union have reached a tentative contract agreement, which, if approved, would end a three-week strike that shut down the company's airplane production.
Mark Blondin, district president for Machinists District Lodge 751 in Seattle, confirmed the agreement yesterday and said union members would vote on the deal Thursday.
''I'm just proud of our membership," Blondin said. ''They stood solid, unified. And that solidarity is what finally got the company to do the right thing."
Boeing spokesman Charles Bickers said the company believes the agreement is reasonable and reflects compromise on both sides.
According to Blondin, the deal calls for Boeing to make no changes to its current healthcare plan, despite huge increases in healthcare costs nationwide. That's a major change from the premium and other increases that Boeing had demanded.
Pension payouts for union members would increase to $70 per month for every year served, up from $60 currently; the previous offer was $66. The company also agreed to continue offering medical benefits for retirees, Blondin said.
There would be no general wage increase, but workers would receive an 8 percent signing bonus, or about $5,000, plus $3,000 payouts in the second and third years of the contract, he said.
Blondin conceded yesterday that the union had hoped for a higher increase to pension payouts than is in the tentative agreement, but he said the fact that health care payouts wouldn't change was, in the end, better for workers.
The workers represented average 49 years of age, meaning many have set a priority on retirement benefits. They are paid an average of $59,000 a year.
One incentive dropped from the original offer was an incentive pay program that would have provided bonuses if the company met or exceeded financial targets. In another change, the offer terms are the same for workers in the Puget Sound area, Gresham, Ore., and Wichita, Kan.; previously some terms were less for Wichita workers.
About 18,400 Machinists who assemble Boeing's commercial airplanes and some key components walked off the job on Sept. 2, forcing the Chicago-based company to immediately stop its airplane production.
James Bell, Boeing's chief financial officer, had said the strike could result in more than two dozen new airplanes not reaching customers this month, although analysts said a strike lasting a month or less would likely not result in serious problems for Boeing.
The strike came as Boeing's commercial airplane business, which had sagged under the weight of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and a weak US economy, started to improve.