Boeing sees "opportunity" for settlement with IAM

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Boeing is coming back to the negotiation table with the International Association of Machinists (IAM) five weeks after a strike began because the manufacturer sees an "opportunity" for resolving a key issue in the labor dispute.

"One of the key issues has been job security," a Boeing spokesman tells ATI. "In coming to that decision that it was worth pursuing, certainly our side saw an opportunity that there might be some language that might satisfy both sides."

The IAM's 27,000 members working for Boeing have been on strike since 6 September. Both sides agreed on 8 October to return to the bargaining table for the first time since the strike began.

A spokeswoman for IAM said the union has not changed its position. Although it has been widely reported that the union sought job security guarantees, IAM's actual demands are narrowed to two key issues.

Firstly, the union wants the right compete for work that Boeing wants to outsource to other manufactuers, the spokeswoman says. Secondly, Boeing must agree not to use subcontractors for any work normally performed by machinists in Everett, Washington, including parts distribution and maintenance of heavy equipment.

"I think they're finally listening," says IAM's spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, Boeing's spokesman said the company has not changed any of its positions either. The company had previously addressed the union's job security demands by proposing to form a joint management-labor committee. This panel would "study how we can further the whole broad notion of job stabilization from these wild swings in employment that the aerospace industry and Boeing has suffered from over years and years," Boeing's spokesman says.

"I think it's a matter of Boeing leaders seeing an opportunity to present a settlement that might give the union what it wants while still preserving the flexibility we need to run our business," he adds.