Boeing in Talks With Union

BOEING Company, halfway through another record year, opened contract talks Wednesday with union leaders who say they want a wage hike this time instead of the productivity bonuses of the past six years. Negotiations began in Wichita, Kan., between Boeing and three districts of the International Association of Machinists union, which represent 57,800 workers in Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Wichita. Aerospace industry analysts say the union is in a strong position to exact a favorable settlement because of a $67 billion backlog of commercial airplane orders, $346 million in profits in the first half of 1989, and a shortage of skilled workers that forced Boeing to borrow workers from Lockheed Corporation this year.

Union officials want an hourly wage increase, likely to be in a double-digit percentage, to replace productivity bonuses. The average wage is $13.50 to $14 an hour.

Boeing customers have been irritated by delivery delays for 747-400 model jets. With 44 due for delivery in the last quarter, a work stoppage would jeopardize Boeing's reputation for reliability.

The chance of a strike is small, say analysts, who believe Boeing workers know they are better off riding the crest of record airplane orders than sitting out the good times on a picket line.

``This is the opportunity of a lifetime [for workers] to get all the overtime they can,'' said William Deatherage, aerospace analyst at Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. in New York.

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