The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 751 headquarters

Boeing machinists plan to push for recount

Calls for a recount of a union vote on a labour contract determining where Boeing's new 777X jet will be built could yet derail the deal.

Boeing's machinists on Friday narrowly approved a crucial labor contract that secured thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of economic activity for Washington state but will cost workers their pensions.

But now some Boeing machinists plan to push for a recount or even a new vote, possibly extending a long-running drama over which state will get to work on Boeing's new 777X jet, although union leaders said there would need to be a reason to take such a step and that no formal request for action had been made.

"The vote is over and it was counted under the eyes of the members," said R. Thomas Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), which represents the Boeing machinists and other workers in the United States and Canada. "The tally is what it is."

The issue appeared decided late on Friday when local machinists voted very narrowly in favour of the contract.

But some members of the International Association of Machinists District 751 have claimed they plan to rally at the union hall in Everett, Washington, and union member Shannon Ryker, a structural mechanic who works on Boeing's 777, said dozens of workers also planned to carpool to Seattle this week to file complaints about the vote.

"People are very angry," she said. "Some people have been physically ill. A lot of members reported that they feel like there's been a death in the family."

Local union lodges plan to discuss the issue when they meet over the next three days, said the source close to the union, who did not want to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly. It was not immediately clear how any procedure to reconsider the vote would work.

The contract offer was approved by a 51 per cent majority of machinists on Friday. About 600 votes separated yes from no in the latest vote, union officials said on Friday, and about 8,000 of the 31,000 eligible union members did not vote – much higher than the prior vote in November, when about 4,500 did not vote.

Approving it meant pensions would be capped in 2016 and replaced with a defined-contribution plan and local union leaders staunchly opposed the offer and had urged members to reject the deal.

But Buffenbarger and the union's international leaders, based in Washington, DC, had urged the machinists to consider it carefully, while stopping short of a full endorsement.

Had the workers rejected the offer, Boeing would have considered making the successor to its popular 777 widebody jet elsewhere, and had received offers from 22 states interested in hosting the new factory.

International leaders said there are many close votes in the contracts it administers and they do not get recounted or re-voted.

"Just because there is a close margin is not a reason for recount or re-vote," said Frank Larkin, spokesman for the International. "It is not automatic."

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