The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is preparing for a prolonged strike at ’s facility in Wichita, approving increased benefits beginning on the third week of the walkout.
About 825 of Bombardier’s 3,000-plus workers in Wichita went on strike Oct. 8 after IAM members rejected the company’s five-year contract proposal over health benefits and wage increases.
Contract talks have not resumed since the workers went on strike, and none are scheduled. Bombardier says it is “hopeful that the union representing our employees will soon return to the bargaining table” and that the two parties can resolve the impasse.
Union leaders increased the strike fund benefits to $350 per week for members who participate in strike shifts. The union notes that additional benefits are available for six weeks, and the union would “review it at that point.”
In the interim, Bombardier has implemented a contingency plan to minimize disruption. The company has kept quiet on the plan’s specifics, saying only that it is “focused on continuing product development, aircraft deliveries and maintaining service to our customers.”
The strike comes as Bombardier had put production on hold for its Learjet 60 and was in the process of discontinuing production of the Learjet 40 and 45 as it shifts to the Learjet 70 and 75 successors.
But Bombardier has also been rapidly expanding its Wichita location to accommodate Learjet 85 production. Bombardier has increased employment at the plant by 50% since 2008, and expects to add another 600 workers for the Learjet 85 program.
A company spokeswoman confirms that the strike has not affected the product lines to this point, and says its programs in development, including Learjet 70/75 and Learjet 85, “are progressing per plan.”