Union, Lockheedhold talks on wages Contract is up Friday for 12,500 workers at plants in Ga., Calif.

February 26, 1996|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,SUN STAFF

Lockheed Martin Corp. is coming down to the negotiating wire this week in contract talks with a union representing 12,500 workers at three plants owned by the Bethesda defense giant.

The company's contract with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers expires Friday.

The union and the company say they are working hard to avoid a strike, which the union's members have already authorized, but both sides are saying little about what is happening at the bargaining table.

"We made a commitment to the IAM to negotiate at the table, and we intend to honor that," said Charles Manor, a Lockheed Martin spokesman.

"We and the company have agreed not to get a lot into the substance while we're negotiating," said Matt Bates, the union spokesman. "Beyond generalities, we can't get into the nuts and bolts."

The general issues are money and job security. The Machinists, who make an average of $18.90 an hour, say their wages have risen only 2.9 percent since 1992, while company executives have seen their compensation rise 35 percent in the same period.

Fifty-seven percent of the company's Machinists have been laid off since 1989, due to the merger of Lockheed Corp. and Martin Marietta Corp. and to the leaner Defense Department budgets of the post-Cold War era.

Mr. Bates said the union wants Lockheed Martin to train workers for other positions in the company if the employees are at risk of being laid off.

Because Lockheed Martin has a relatively older work force, he said, the workers could be trained for jobs being opened up by retirements.

Ninety percent of the workers covered by the expiring contract hold production and maintenance jobs at three aerospace plants, one in Georgia and two in California.

Lock-heed Martin's Middle River plant is not affected.

Paul Nisbet, a defense industry analyst at JSA Research Inc. in Providence, R.I., said the Boeing Corp. usually sets the standard for contracts in the aerospace industry.

Lockheed Martin is likely to argue that Boeing's commercial aviation business allows the Seattle company to pay more than Lockheed can, Mr. Nisbet said, while the union will point to Lockheed Martin's $23 billion in annual sales as evidence of its ability to afford a raise.

Boeing Machinists ended a two-month strike in December. The result was a 45-month contract that includes a 10 percent first-year bonus, a 4.5 percent lump-sum bonus in the second year, a 3 percent general-wage increase in the third and fourth years, company-paid optional medical coverage, incentives for managed health care plans and job security language.

Workers stand to receive an estimated average increase of $19,200 in pay and benefits over the term of the agreement, Boeing union leaders said when the pact was ratified.

Mr. Bates said the Machinists' union is not committed to a strike. The existing contract can be extended for five days if talks are going well, Mr. Bates said, and he refused to say whether the union will strike even if talks drag on through the extension.

"I don't think it's useful to speculate," he said. "Talks are going on."

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