Boeing and machinists return to table in attempt to avert strike

Boeing Co. and its largest union planned to go back to the table Thursday to try to avoid a strike that would shut down production at the world's No. 2 plane maker and could further delay the 787 Dreamliner.

The Chicago-based company and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers both declined to say when and where negotiators were to meet. After the 27,000 machinists voted to strike Wednesday in a walkout that was supposed to begin Thursday, the two sides agreed to extend the contract by 48 hours to try to come to an agreement.

Eighty percent of the voters, machinists in Washington state, Oregon and Kansas, opposed Boeing's contract proposal, and 87 percent supported a walkout, the union said Wednesday night.

Boeing had offered an 11 percent raise over three years while rejecting limits on the use of outside contractors for work the machinists have traditionally done.

A walkout would threaten to prevent the 787, Boeing's most successful new plane, from flying this year and stymie Boeing's efforts to deliver a record $275 billion in orders as energy prices spur airlines to buy new, more fuel-efficient jets. A strike would cost Boeing $120 million a day in lost revenue, Jefferies & Co. analyst Howard Rubel predicts.

Boeing shares fell $3.41, or 5.2 percent, to $62.66 at 2:59 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading as U.S. stocks slumped for a fourth day. The stock has dropped 38 percent since the first of three Dreamliner delays was announced in October due to parts shortages and incomplete work by suppliers.

“Any strike will be short-lived given Boeing's desperate need not to see the 787 slip even further,” analyst Arment said. “Boeing management will pay up to avoid that.”

Boeing agreed to talk with the union again after a request last night from federal mediators. The contract's extension expires at midnight Saturday.