Boeing says no plans to reopen union talks on 777X

Reuters

DUBAI, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Boeing said it has no plansto reopen talks with a union representing Washington stateworkers who have rejected a labour contract linked to its newestjet and vowed it would "look very broadly" at where to build it.

Washington state machinists last week voted down a contractnegotiated between Boeing and leaders of the InternationalAssociation of Machinists (IAM) that would have kept production of Boeing's profitable wide-body series in the Seattle area inreturn for lower benefits.

Boeing is keeping "all options open" on where to build the777X and expects to make a decision "within the next severalmonths", Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Ray Connertold a news conference on Saturday.

He was speaking on the eve of the Dubai Airshow whereindustry sources expect the U.S. planemaker to launch the latestversion of the 777 jet with around 250 orders.

Asked whether Boeing was willing to go back into talks withthe IAM after its members rejected the contract proposal, Connersaid: "At this point we have no plans to do that."

Conner said the Seattle area, where Boeing builds most ofits jets, was not out of the race but that Boeing would look atother facilities including wings production in Japan, where thecomposite wing for the 787 Dreamliner is already made.

"The vote didn't go the way we had hoped so we are nowexploring all our options with respect to the 777X," he said.

Responding to a reporter's suggestion that the union feltthe ball was in Boeing's court to decide what to do next, Connersaid: "I would say the ball is in their court."

Boeing executives also rejected suggestions that the talkshad been driven by a need to speed up the new plane in responseto recent wins by European rival Airbus, saying it wassticking to plans to deliver the proposed jet in 2020.

"Going into this vote was not being driven by a need toaccelerate the airplane," Conner said.

"The timing of the airplane hasn't changed: it has alwaysbeen the end of the decade," Conner said.

"The reason why we were moving forward with the negotiationsis we have got to put brick and mortar in place to do the wingand maybe some other things," he added.

"It is a pretty long cycle, particularly with the wing, andit is not something we have done before within the Puget Soundregion or anywhere else except in Japan. That is why we neededto start the negotiations and find out where we were going tobe. It was not being diven by anything other than that."

IAM President R. Thomas Buffenbarger told Reuters in aninterview on Friday the talks had been "on a very fast timelinethat was being driven by the Boeing board making a decision toexpedite development of the 777X".

Marty Bentrott, Boeing's senior vice president forinternational sales, told a separate news conference on Satudaythat the aircraft would enter service in "mid-2020".

Boeing officials declined to discuss orders lined up for theNov. 17-21 air show, but Bentrott said the 777X had beenreceived "very positively" by all three major Gulf carriers,referring to Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.

Boeing expects to resolve reliability problems with itshigh-tech 787 Dreamliner within six months by rolling outchanges to the aircraft's software, he added.

Customers including Qatar Airways and Norwegian Air havecomplained about the plane's reliability.

Bentrott predicted the Dreamliner's latest version, the787-10, would be part of the Middle East's fast-growing fleetand said he was confident about prospects for the 737 MAX.

Industry sources expect heavy orders at the Middle East'slargest aviation gathering to include 30 Dreamliners and a75-plane order for the 737 MAX, as well dozens of Airbus jets.

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