Machinists, Spirit AeroSystems Explore New Partnership

IAM President Tom Buffenbarger (left), Spirit AeroSystems CEO Jeff Turner (center) and former Missouri Representative and current Spirit Board Member Dick Gephart (right) take questions from union and company representatives at a meeting in Wichita, KS.

In a meeting with the potential to redefine labor-management relations in the U.S. aerospace industry, IAM President Tom Buffenbarger, former Congressman Dick Gephardt and Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc. CEO Jeff Turner met this week with managers and union stewards to discuss the state of the industry and the upcoming contract negotiations for 6,000 IAM members at Spirit.

Preparations for the talks between the IAM and Spirit began months ago, with members of the union’s bargaining committee meeting with company officials to broach the possibility of longer agreements and terms that would provide real job security for workers in the turbulent industry.

“We need to move beyond the old ways of collective bargaining,” said Buffenbarger. “If there is a way, and a willing partner, that makes it possible to protect our members’ jobs while working in a less adversarial environment, then we have an obligation to explore that possibility.”

Neither the IAM nor Spirit would discuss in detail the proposals they will exchange when contract talks get underway, but both sides expressed optimism. In remarks published in Bloomberg News, Turner displayed an understanding of the dynamics that can stymie traditional negotiations.

“In a market that’s so volatile, a classical set of negotiations is going to set us up to butt heads,” said Spirit CEO Turner in the Bloomberg article. “If the company has a pessimistic view of the business and tries to win concessions that turn out to have been unnecessary, it breeds distrust.”

The current contract expires June 25th.

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