Hawker-union dispute goes to arbitrator


March 31--A contract dispute between Hawker Beechcraft and the Machinists union went to an arbitrator Wednesday, a union official said.

The union is protesting Hawker Beechcraft's use of an outside vendor to replace 300 union-represented hourly jobs at the plant.

Union and company officials met with a federal mediator in January.

It's difficult to predict how long it will take the arbitrator to make a decision, said Rita Rogers, Machinists District 70 assistant directing business representative.

Hawker Beechcraft spokeswoman Nicole Alexander said the company does not comment on pending arbitration.

In April 2009, Hawker Beechcraft replaced its material handlers, material clerks and truck drivers, outsourcing the work to Aerospace Logistics Services.

The union alleges Hawker Beechcraft abused the subcontracting language in the current agreement with the union when it brought outside workers in-house to do the work, Rogers said.

"They say it wasn't their core business anymore," she said. "However, we never defined what's core and what's noncore."

During negotiations held in 2008 for the current Machinists contract, "the company didn't say they didn't want to do this work anymore," Rogers said.

These were bargaining-unit jobs, she said. "It was totally disrespectful, totally blatant, (with) no consideration for our community, our people."

Some had 30 years of seniority.

"They walked out the door like cattle," she said.

About 200 were laid off because of the action, Rogers has said. Others had seniority rights and took jobs in other areas of the plant.

About 65 accepted jobs with Aerospace Logistics. Their wages were cut in half, she has said.

Aerospace Logistics has had a lot of turnover with workers who were brought in, Rogers said.

"These people are contracted and don't really have ownership that 'this is my company, this is my job,' " she said. "We had long-term employees lose their jobs."

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.