Vought Threatens to Permanently Replace Striking Workers

 - January 12, 2009, 11:27 AM

Vought Aircraft Industries planned to meet again tomorrow with leaders of the striking International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 735 in Nashville, Tenn., in hopes of “a quick contract resolution” after threatening to use permanent replacement workers for the nearly 1,000 employees who walked out in September.

“Our intent from the start has been to negotiate in good faith to provide employees with fair, competitive, market-based wages and the same model of retirement benefits in place at other Vought locations,” the company said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the IAM union has rejected Vought’s proposals, leading us to conclude that the strike will not be resolved any time soon.”

The workforce at Vought voted September 27 to reject a company offer that would eliminate the existing pension plan for employees with less than 16 years seniority and replace it with what the union referred to as an inferior 401k savings plan. Since the strike began, Vought has run the facility with temporary replacement workers consisting of workers from other Vought factories, “experienced” contractors and salaried employees. It also moved some subassembly work to other Vought sites.

“Vought would rather threaten their employees than negotiate a fair contract for nearly 1,000 striking members of IAM Local 735,” said IAM International president Tom Buffenbarger.

“The attempt by Vought to force a 401k plan on employees who deferred wages to fund a secure retirement plan would be outrageous under any circumstances,” said Buffenbarger. “In the current investment atmosphere, it is nothing less than a financial death sentence.”

The company said it has already begun the process to hire permanent replacement workers at the site. It added that the hiring of permanent replacements does not mean that it will fire any union workers, however. “But, for every position filled with new permanent workers, there is one less position for the workers on strike to fill when [or if] this dispute is settled,” the company said in a statement.

“Additionally, today we informed the leadership of IAM Local 735 that without a ratified agreement in place by midnight January 16, we will be unable to commence the production work for the Citation Columbus, previously scheduled for the Nashville facility,” said the company. “We will then begin ‘facilitization’ at another Vought location.” Vought won the contract to supply the entire wing for the Columbus.

Vought’s Nashville site specializes in long and large machining and processing of aircraft parts, including the Airbus A330/A340 mid- and outer-leading edge assemblies, mid-rear spars, center spar assembly, flaps, fairings and upper panel assemblies. Other projects include the Cessna Citation X upper and lower wing panel assemblies, the Gulfstream G450 series wing and the C-130J Hercules empennage for Lockheed Martin.

The Nashville facility also features a composites and bonding center, design and stress test capabilities, airworthiness certification, systems integration and Catia software.