SEATTLE (AP) — Shortly after local Machinist union leaders said they could not recommend what Boeing called its final counterproposal in negotiations to keep much of the work on a new 777X jet in the Puget Sound region, a national union negotiator said union members should get a chance to make the decision.
"Our members are very sophisticated and smart on this matter," Rich Michalski, who represented the national leadership of the International Association of Machinists in the talks, told The Seattle Times late Thursday (http://is.gd/bDRl8L) .
"Once we get the information on the offer to them, they will let us know," Michalski said. "We really need to hear from our members."
Earlier in the day, Tom Wroblewski, president of local Machinists District 751, said his members want to build the 777X. "However, the price Boeing demanded was too high," he said in a statement. "Our senior leadership team could not recommend Boeing's counteroffer."
He called Boeing's new offer "mostly unchanged" from the 777X jobs proposal union members rejected last month by a 2-to-1 margin, in part because it would have replaced workers' traditional defined-benefit pension with a defined-contribution savings plan.
Boeing Co. spokesman Doug Alder said the revised proposal presented Thursday included previously proposed "changes to the way members earn future retirement benefits," meaning a defined-contribution plan, but it withdrew an earlier proposal to dramatically slow wage growth for new hires. The new offer would have kept in place the current rate at which employees rise to the top of the pay scale.
Boeing said Thursday that union leadership had rejected its final offer.
Boeing's offer was contingent on union leadership recommending acceptance, Wroblewski said.
"This we could not do," he said. "Our members had already rejected this."
In a telephone interview late Thursday night, Boeing's Alder declined to characterize anything said about contingencies, but declared, "The offer is on the table and that remains in the hands of the union.
"The offer has not been withdrawn," he added, "It's up to the union to decide whether to put it to a vote or not."
Bryan Corliss, a spokesman for Machinists District 751, said late Thursday that local union officials were trying to reach Michalski.
An Associated Press call to union headquarters in Maryland was not immediately returned.
Boeing said it has received proposals from 22 states eager for the 777X jobs.
Other states are "lined up" to take the 777X jobs away from Washington, Michalski told The Times.
"Our members are aware of that," he said, adding that union members must "look at the facts, the situation as it is."
Michalski insisted there is no difference of opinion between the national union leadership and local union leaders.
"We've listened to the union leadership and had an open dialogue in hopes of moving toward each other," Ray Conner, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said Thursday in a statement. "Unfortunately, the offer, which would have ensured this great airplane for the Puget Sound region, was immediately rejected by the union leadership."