Spirit AeroSystems union workforce approves new contract, ending strike at Kansas plant


By Valerie Insinna

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Spirit AeroSystems said it would begin resuming operations at its plant in Wichita, Kansas, on Friday, after union workers on Thursday voted to accept a new contract and end a strike that led to a week-long work stoppage.

Following a vote where union employees represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) agreed to a four-year deal, Spirit said it would closely coordinate with its suppliers and customers as it fully restarts production on July 5.

The rejection of a previous offer on June 21 sent shockwaves through the aviation industry, as Spirit is a lynchpin for the U.S. aerospace industry, making major aerostructures for American manufacturer Boeing and its European rival Airbus.

Its Wichita plant is especially critical for the U.S. planemaker, as workers at the site manufacture the entire body of Boeing’s bestselling 737 MAX, as well as the forward fuselage of most other Boeing jets. It also produces pylons for the Airbus A220.

The new four-year contract, which union leaders endorsed on Tuesday, includes additional wage increases, allowed employees to keep their current health care plans and eradicated mandatory overtime on the weekends – three features that workers had earmarked as priorities for a deal.

“It’s never an easy decision to make when voting to go out on strike, but our membership felt that excluding vital medication in their core insurance plan was unacceptable,” said Craig Martin, IAM’s Southern Territory chief of staff.

(Reporting by Valerie Insinna; Editing by Sandra Maler, Nick Zieminski and Jamie Freed)

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