More than one-quarter of the workers at ’s facility are set to go on strike Oct. 8 after the members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) rejected a five-year contract proposal. The IAM represents 825 of the company’s 3,000-plus workers in Wichita, and 79% of the voting union members supported the strike.
Bombardier Learjet says it was disappointed by the vote, but maintains that it has “put forward a fair and reasonable renewal offer.” The company adds that it plans to continue negotiations to resolve outstanding issues. In the interim, the manufacturer is implementing a contingency plan to try to minimize the disruption to production, Bombardier says, although the company did not detail specifics of those plans.
IAM leadership had recommended rejection of the contract and a strike vote, saying “Bombardier failed to listen to its employees.” IAM told members that the contract would lock them into a five-year deal that “doesn’t keep up with the cost of living, and health insurance that increases out-of-pocket expenses and fails to provide protection for our families.”
The contract offer would provide no wage increases in the first year and a total increase of 4% over the next five years, the IAM says. The union also was concerned that the contract proposes to eliminate two health maintenance organizations (HMOs) currently used by 80% of the bargaining unit, and that alternative plans represent a 110% increase in costs.
The strike comes as Bombardier has been rapidly expanding its Wichita location to accommodate production of the new Learjet 85. Bombardier has increased employment at the plant by 50% since 2008, and expects to add another 600 workers for the Learjet 85 program.
At the same time though, production of the older Learjet models are either on hold or phasing out as the airframer turns its attention to new aircraft. The sluggish market for midsized aircraft forced Bombardier to halt production of the Learjet 60. Further, the company has discontinued production of the Learjet 40 and is soon to discontinue the 45 as it begins production of the Learjet 70 and 75 successors.