About 450 workers at the Martin Marietta Corp. complex in Middle River are scheduled to vote this morning on wage concessions that the company says are needed to safeguard their jobs.
The workers at the Aero & Naval Systems division are members of Local 738 of the United Auto Workers. Most of them are involved in the production of thrust reversers, which reverse the flow of jet engine exhausts and are used on commercial jetliners as brakes.
Martin is asking the union members to forgo scheduled quarterly cost-of-living wage adjustments next month. Union President Dolores Reid said the concessions are not to exceed 8 cents an hour during each quarterly adjustment, or 40 cents an hour over the five adjustment periods beginning next month and ending in August next year. That could bring the concessions to $16 a week by the end of the five quarters.
Union workers are not the only ones in line for pay cuts. Albert Kamhi, a company spokesman at the Aero & Naval Systems division in Baltimore County, said salaried, white-collar workers are also in line for concessions. "We should know more about that in coming weeks," he said.
Mr. Kamhi said the moves are part of the division's new philosophy of having "to do more with less and do it better." He explained that with defense spending on the decline, the company must reduce its costs to be more competitive in vying for commercial work such as the thrust reversers, which it makes under contract for General Electric Co.
Ms. Reid said the Martin division is seeking to cut its total operating costs by as much as $11.6 million a year. Mr. Kamhi declined to confirm this amount.
The two officials said that other recent cost-cutting steps taken by the division include:
* Laying off about 500 workers at Middle River since the first of the year.
* Boosting the share of health-care costs paid by salaried workers from about $26 a month to about $60 a month.
* Consolidating building space.
* Taking a hard look at each job within the division to determine whether it should absorb more work.
Mr. Kamhi said Martin was notified by GE earlier this year that it would have to reduce its costs on the thrust-reverser work or stand to lose the business. He said the company found that workers involved in the production of the aircraft parts were paid higher salaries than those at competing plants run by Grumman Corp. and Kaman Corp.
Mr. Kamhi said all three of GE's suppliers were asked to reduce theircosts. "We met that goal and exceeded it" in a bid the company submitted to GE last week, he said.
Ms. Reid said she thinks the concessions would help keep the aircraft work at the Baltimore County plant and therefore will recommend that union members accept them when they vote this morning at Essex Community College.
Some union officers disagree. Gerald T. Smith, vice chairman of thelocal, said he thinks Martin was not completely honest with union executives during its meeting to discuss production costs and that he therefore opposes the company's request.
Mr. Smith, who is on layoff from his job as a refrigerator mechanic, said he asked the company whether it would call back some of those who have been laid off if workers agreed to the wage concessions. He said the company declined to give that assurance and that Martin officials said more layoffs were likely.
The company's request for labor concessions comes a year after Martin disclosed that it was involved in a $17 million renovation of an old aircraft-manufacturing plant at Middle River to transform it into the world's largest and most modern producer of thrust reversers.
The decision on the capital improvement came not long after the company was awarded separate contracts from GE and Pratt & Whitney Corp. totaling $485 million, with an option for an additional $375 million, to produce reversers, which are used on jets flown by more than 90 commercial airlines worldwide.