Bombardier Calls in Federal Mediator for Talks with Machinists

Bombardier Aerospace and its striking machinists union will resume talks Thursday after the company sought help from a federal mediator, Bombardier said Wednesday.

Bombardier says it has met a few times with the union to resolve the dispute at its Learjet plant in Wichita.

"Representatives of Learjet and the union met yesterday, informally, to discuss the way forward," Bombardier spokesman Leo Knaapan said in a written statement.

The company said it asked for a federal mediator.

Union aerospace coordinator Bob Eldridge said Wednesday that the union had a brief fact-finding meeting in which the company kept saying it did not understand why workers rejected the offer. The union explained what issues workers are concerned about: contract language, wages, health care and the pension plan, Eldridge said.

Eldridge said one never knows whether a federal mediator will help in reaching a contract deal.

"It just depends on whether the company listened and is willing to sit down and bargain," Eldridge said. "It is our hope always that we can successfully reach conclusion."

Montreal-based Bombardier Aerospace has about 4,000 workers in the United States, with 2,300 of them at its Learjet plant in Wichita. About 1,100 of the Wichita workers are represented by the striking Machinists union.

The strike vote by members came as a surprise to both the union leadership and the company. Union members voted by 80 percent to strike, despite their own negotiating committee's recommendation to approve the proposed contract. The strike began at 12:01 on Oct. 2, when the last contract expired.

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On the Net:

Bombardier Aerospace: http://www.bombardier.com

Machinists: http://www.639iam.org


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