Labor Expert: Cessna Decision Could Impact Hawker Offer

By: Stephanie Diffin Email
By: Stephanie Diffin Email

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September 20, 2010

UPDATE

Cessna machinists return to work this week under a new contract, and the deal is making waves throughout the Wichita aviation industry.

After Cessna machinists accept an unusually low offer, experts say it could make an impact on other contract negotiations underway.

Monday, Hawker Beechcraft machinists received a memo from union leaders saying the company plans to make its final offer October 9th. This, as the Machinists Union says Hawker's considering moving operations to a different state, and as Cessna machinists accept an offer the union suggested they reject.

"There's some things we didn't like, but I mean the way the economy is right now, that's all we can do," said one Cessna worker.

"I mean we're just going to have to live with it, but there was a lot of take-aways, a lot of take-aways," said another Cessna machinist.

Those concessions are part of the reason experts call the contract unusual. It's a contract that spurred the union to recommend a strike, but less than half of voting members acted on that recommendation.

"They were scared because of you know, the way things are. But we're going to lose at the end, we're losing anyway," said one worker as she left Cessna Monday.

The seven year contract includes no real wage increases the first four years, although it does include a cost of living increase. It will also likely increase health care costs, and experts say it doesn't provide much job security.

Now, analysts say the acceptance of that contract is sending a message to Hawker Beechcraft, as the company continues its own negotiations currently underway.

"I think it's a message to Hawker that here's what Cessna settled for, and the situation at Hawker is a little bit more tense right now," said WSU Economics and Labor Relations Professor Dr. Martin Perline.

Because the union says Hawker has received offers from other states to move operations. That's not a threat Cessna workers were facing, but they still voted not to strike.

"So if Cessna's willing to settle for this kind of a contract, I think it's an indication to Hawker that they can make an offer on a contract that's not all that great from a worker's perspective," said Perline.

But experts say if Hawker stays in Wichita, the good news for aviation workers is, the economy will bounce back. And the negotiating tables may turn when this round of contracts is over.

"I think seven years from now it's a new ballgame. We have to wait and see where we are then," said Perline.

Union leaders declined an interview Monday night. But when we asked Spokesman Bob Wood whether he believed Cessna's decision would impact the Hawker offer, he said "they're separate negotiations."

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Machinist Union leaders say they've sent a memo to membership indicating Hawker Beechcraft will make its final contract offer October 9th.

This news comes just days after Cessna Machinists accepted an offer some say included more concessions than added benefits. Experts say they believe the approval could impact the offer Hawker makes. But when KAKE News asked Union Spokesman Bob Wood about the possible impact of Cessna's decision on Hawker, he said, "they're separate negotiations."

We will have much more on this story tonight on KAKE News at 10.


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