Learjet Machinists Walk the Picket Lines

Workers’ union rejected a proposed contract Saturday night.

Learjet 60XR

Learjet 60XRBombardier

The union representing some 825 workers at Bombardier’s Learjet plant in Wichita called a strike after contract negotiations failed to reach an agreement with the company on a new deal.

The current contract, which was negotiated in 2009, expired on Saturday, and workers are not satisfied with the new proposal. It calls for no raises this year, and 1 percent raises for the remaining four years of the five-year contract. Pension plans would be retained, but workers would pay more for health care coverage – the main sticking point in the negotiations.

Learjet says it has a contingency plan in place for the strike, and there is no anticipated delay in production, deliveries or service.

Workers claim that the union agreed to concessions in 2003, and that at the time, Learjet promised to make up for those concessions, but has failed to do so. That led to a three-week strike in 2006, the first in the history of the company. Though it claims to be sensitive to making demands during a slow sales period for aircraft, a spokesman for the union said that most of its members are over 50 years old, and healthcare costs are important to them.

Though there were traffic delays at the entrance to the plant, the union has so far complied with a court-ordered agreement with the company on rules for the picket lines.