Boeing Co. (BA) is in “intensified” talks with its largest union to assemble its upgraded 777 twin-aisle jet and build the plane’s carbon-fiber wing in Washington, in exchange for a long-term labor agreement.
The International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers has sought to keep production of Boeing’s top-selling wide-body plane in the Puget Sound region and those discussions have gained urgency in the past week, Frank Larkin, a union spokesman, said in a phone interview today.
“We have been having discussions with Boeing about the 777X since the plane was announced,” Larkin said. “Those discussions have intensified recently.”
The jet is expected to be unveiled at the Dubai Airshow this month and Boeing is in talks with four airlines for commitments valued at as much as $87 billion, people familiar with the matter have said. The decision as to where the jet will be built is approaching, giving new impetus to the talks, Larkin said.
“Talks are under way,” Doug Alder, a Boeing spokesman, also said by telephone.
Tom Wroblewski, president of District 751, which represents about 32,000 workers in Washington and Oregon, is leading discussions with Boeing executives that include Ray Conner, president and chief executive officer of Boeing’s commercial airplane unit. Thomas Buffenbarger, international president of the union, is also involved, Larkin said.
The Chicago-based planemaker last week said it had assigned much of the design work for the jet away from the Seattle area, with tasks split among engineering centers in South Carolina, Alabama, California, Pennsylvania and Missouri and supported by a facility in Moscow.
The machinists union has been concerned that Boeing will shift 777X production from its Washington manufacturing base. Media reports have said the company is considering a plant in North Charleston, South Carolina and a factory in Long Beach, California, to assemble the plane.
Reuters reported the discussions between Boeing and the machinists union earlier today.
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