Machinists Vote To OK Lockheed Martin’s Revised Contract

 - June 29, 2012, 12:12 PM
The first international F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for the UK, designated BK-1, nears completion late last year at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth. Its first flight was April 13. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Striking machinists at the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics plant in Fort Worth, Texas, voted by a large margin to accept a revised contract offer from the company, bringing to a conclusion a 10-week walkout at the facility that assembles the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Fort Worth Local 776 voted 1,873 to 447 on June 28 to accept a four-year contract, The Fort Worth Star Telegram reported.

The machinists stopped work on April 23 after rejecting Lockheed Martin’s offer for a new three-year contract over changes to health-insurance coverage and pension benefits for new hires. The revised contract provides annual pay increases starting at 3 percent, but does not provide traditional pensions for new hires, one of the major issues that led to the strike. The union represents 3,600 of the 14,000 workers at the Fort Worth complex.

The parties announced a tentative agreement on a revised contract offer on June 23, four days after meeting for the first time since the strike began under the auspices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Following that agreement, the IAM advised its membership to accept the revised contract offer. “Your negotiating committee does believe that this is the very best contract proposal that we can bring to you without a much longer work stoppage with an uncertain outcome,” the union stated on its strike website.

Lockheed Martin currently is building F-35 low-rate initial production (LRIP) lot 5 aircraft at the Fort Worth plant, and was preparing to load materials for LRIP lot 6. Fifteen LRIP 5 aircraft were in final assembly and another 15 had progressed to the flight line. The plant’s scheduled production rate of four aircraft per month will eventually increase to 17 aircraft per month, the company said.

The Fort Worth facility also builds the F-16 Fighting Falcon. There are currently 60 F-16s on backlog, extending production through January 2016. Interviewed on June 19, Bill McHenry, Lockheed Martin director of F-16 business development said, “We’re maintaining our deliveries,” but added that a prolonged work stoppage ultimately would affect the schedule.

During the strike, the company staffed assembly lines with salaried personnel, including manufacturing engineers and supervisors with a “high level of fear for making a mistake,” noted a Lockheed Martin executive during a press tour of the facility on June 20. In addition, the company recruited temporary workers, and was prepared to bring in up to 2,000 additional people if necessary, the executive said. The plant was operating with about half of the normal 1,500 workers during the press tour.