- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Members of the largest union at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, facility returned to work yesterday after approving a new contract and ending a two-week strike.
   
   About 4,000 workers, all members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new three-year contract providing a 10.3 percent pay increase over the next three years.
   
   The Fort Worth site is the headquarters for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Corp. a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, which is based in Bethesda. Workers there had been on strike since April 14, arguing primarily for better pay and less-expensive health insurance and prescriptions. A federal mediator met with the two sides during the weekend.
   
   Union members will get a 4 percent pay increase the first year of the contract, and 3 percent increases in the second and third years. Each member also will receive a $1,500 bonus for ratifying the contract.
   
   In settling the health care issue, the two sides agreed to a system that caps the amount of money workers will be asked to pay for prescriptions. Under the plan, workers will pay 10 percent, with a $10 maximum co-pay for generic drugs and 20 percent, with a $20 maximum for brand-name drugs. Though the co-payments are higher than in the previous contract, they are significantly lower than what Lockheed Martin originally proposed.
   
   Lockheed Martin will continue to pick up the tab for workers’ dental insurance, but it lowered the amount of coverage from $1,700 to $1,200.
   
   Though Lockheed Martin did make concessions on the issue of health care, union members said they remained frustrated at the company’s unwillingness to form a joint committee to discuss the cost and quality of health care.
   
   Lockheed Martin said its health care costs for the machinists union rose 107 percent over the last three years, and that it was under pressure to operate more efficiently, particularly at the Fort Worth plant.
   
    The Fort Worth facility is the main production site for several key fighter jet programs, including the F-16 and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and F/A-22.
   
   Lockheed Martin won the rights to build the JSF in 2001, besting Boeing for the largest defense contract in history.
   
   The plane, which is expected to be purchased by countries around the world, is scheduled for production by the end of the decade. The F/A-22, meanwhile has been beset by cost overruns and delays.
   
   “In each of our programs and I think the F/A-22 is a good example there is continued pressure to keep costs down,” said Lockheed Martin Aeronautics spokesman Joe Stout.
   
   But the union argued that the company is in strong financial shape, posting profits and consistently increasing revenue over the past two years.
   
   Last week, Lockheed Martin announced first-quarter earnings of $250 million (55 cents per share) up from $224 million (50 cents) during the first quarter of 2002.
   
   Sales rose 18 percent to $7.1 billion, and sales from its aeronautics business alone grew from $1.3 billion to $2.1 billion.
   
   Lockheed Martin Chief Executive Officer Vance Coffman earned $25.4 million in pay, bonuses and exercised stock options in 2002, according to Reuters news agency.
   
   “You have a company that is doing well,” said union spokesman Bob Wood. “They are just not interested in sharing the wealth.”
   
   The machinists’ work stoppage was considerably shorter and less contentious than other recent strikes by Lockheed Martin workers.
   
    Last year, machinists at its Marietta, Ga., facility went on strike for more than six weeks.
   
   Mr. Stout said the plant remained open during this latest strike, with salaried workers filling in.
   
    He said production was “a lot slower” but that the company will not have trouble filling orders.
   
   The company said it will negotiate new contracts with three of the other four unions at Fort Worth this year.

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