Lockheed, Machinists iron out a contract

Six-week Georgia strike would be concluded upon the union's ratification

April 25, 2002|By Robert Little | Robert Little,SUN STAFF

Negotiators for Lockheed Martin Corp. and the Machinists union reached a tentative agreement yesterday that likely signals an end to the six-week-long strike at the company's aircraft assembly plant in Marietta, Ga.

The agreement is subject to the approval of members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, who walked out of the plant March 11 protesting a proposed employment contract. But the new three-year contract offered yesterday was approved unanimously by the union's bargaining committee, and both sides hailed it as a breakthrough.

Neither side would discuss details of the proposed contract, saying they wanted to brief the plant's workers first. A vote by the full union membership is expected Sunday.

"Over the last two days we negotiated improvements over the company's `last, best and final' offer," said union negotiator John Crowdis, in a statement released yesterday.

"We're very pleased that we've been able to reach a tentative agreement," said Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Meghan Mariman. She characterized the tentative deal as "good news."

The Machinists union, which represents about 2,700 of the 7,000 workers in Marietta, has been protesting a proposed contract that would allow Lockheed Martin to replace some union members with contractors. Wages, which average $23 an hour at the plant, were not an issue.

The Marietta plant manufactures two of the company's premier defense products - the F-22 fighter jet and the C-130J transport plane. Production has continued during the strike using managers and workers from other plants, amid sneers from the union members who questioned the quality of the work.

After several failed negotiating sessions, both sides were called to Washington by the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, who said the strike was causing "a substantial interruption of commerce."

Talks began Monday, resumed Tuesday and were held through the night until the tentative agreement was reached yesterday.

Several hundred workers at smaller Lockheed Martin plants in Meridian, Miss., and Clarksburg, W. Va., have also been on strike, in support of the union members in Georgia. They, too, are expected to return to work if the proposed contract is approved.

Shares of Lockheed Martin fell $1.08 to $61.12 on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday.

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