Boe­ing may move 777X pro­duc­tion

Ma­chin­ists in Wash­ing­ton state re­jected con­tract

The Washington Times Daily - - Business - BY MIKE BAKER

SEAT­TLE | Boe­ing’s ties to the Pa­cific North­west date back more than a cen­tury, when Wil­liam Boe­ing pur­chased a Seat­tle ship­yard that would be­come his first air­plane fac­tory.

In re­cent years, how­ever, those ties have been fray­ing, first with the com­pany shift­ing its head­quar­ters to Chicago in 2001, then with the de­vel­op­ment of a new pro­duc­tion line in South Carolina. Now, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Boe­ing and Wash­ing­ton state is near the point of un­rav­el­ing af­ter a fiery de­bate among ma­chin­ists this week led the work­ers to re­ject a long-term con­tract.

On Thurs­day, Boe­ing made good on its threats and said it is look­ing else­where to de­velop its pop­u­lar new 777X air­plane — and the com­pany may take thou­sands of jobs along with it.

Boe­ing Co. spokesman Doug Alder de­clined to spec­ify where the com­pany is look­ing, say­ing there is no short list and that there are many places both within Boe­ing’s cur­rent op­er­a­tions and out­side that are be­ing ex­plored. “Ev­ery­thing is back on the ta­ble,” he said. In 2003, Wash­ing­ton state law­mak­ers ap­proved a broad pack­age of tax breaks for Boe­ing in hopes of se­cur­ing long-term work on the com­pany’s new 787 air­plane. While that plane is be­ing built in the Puget Sound, Boe­ing has since de­vel­oped a new pro­duc­tion line in South Carolina and placed wing pro­duc­tion in Ja­pan.

Alex Pi­etsch, who serves as the leader on aero­space is­sues for Gov. Jay Inslee, a Demo­crat, said Thurs­day that he now ex­pects fresh com­pe­ti­tion for the 777X line from South Carolina, Texas, South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, Utah, Alabama and Ge­or­gia.

“This is ar­guably the most sig­nif­i­cant prize in com­mer­cial avi­a­tion his­tory,” Mr. Pi­etsch said.

In the con­tract vote late Wed­nes­day, the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ma­chin­ists Dis­trict 751 re­jected the pro­posal with 67 per­cent of the votes. Union mem­bers who called for a “no” vote did so in protest of Boe­ing’s push to end a tra­di­tional pen­sion plan and in­crease their health care costs.

The deal would have ex­changed those con­ces­sions for the long-term sta­bil­ity ex­pected with the 777X line. Work­ers would have re­ceived a $10,000 sign­ing bonus if they ap­proved the deal.

“We pre­served some­thing sa­cred by re­ject­ing the Boe­ing pro­posal. We’ve held on to our pen­sions and that’s big. At a time when fi­nan­cial plan­ners are talk­ing about a ‘re­tire­ment cri­sis’ in Amer­ica, we have pre­served a tool that will help our mem­bers re­tire with more com­fort and dig­nity,” Tom Wrob­lewski, Dis­trict 751 pres­i­dent, said in a state­ment.

The long-range, twin-aisle 777 holds about 365 pas­sen­gers, mak­ing it Boe­ing’s sec­ond-big­gest plane. Since its first flight in 1994, it has been a best-seller for Boe­ing, which has sold more 777s than any of its other cur­rent large planes.

In May, it be­gan of­fer­ing the re­vamped 777X. Boe­ing is still fi­nal­iz­ing plans for the plane, but it has said it is ex­pected to carry as many as 400 pas­sen­gers and to be 20 per­cent more fuel ef­fi­cient than the cur­rent 777.

The 777X, meant to com­pete with the new Air­bus A350, is ex­pected to be ready by the end of this decade.

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