Union workers at Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems overwhelmingly approved a new three-year contract Sunday, averting a potential strike.
Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 933 approved the contract on a 476 to 56 vote, after the company sweetened its wage proposal in the past week.
The union last week had termed "insulting" an earlier Raytheon proposal that had no wage increase in the first year and small increases in subsequent years. That along with other issues prompted union leadership to seek authority for a strike vote along with the ratification vote on Sunday.
Under the new contract, which was recommended for ratification by union leadership, the roughly 1,300 Raytheon employees represented by the union will each get a $750 lump-sum payment on Nov. 12 and $500 payments each January during the contract years.
Most workers represented by the union will get general wage increases of 2.5 percent effective immediately, a 2.75 increase effective in October 2016 and a 3 percent increase in October 2017. A small number of employees will get commensurate one-time payments instead of wage-rate increases because of their classifications.
Employee health-insurance premiums will rise 5 percent along with other changes that will raise out-of-pocket costs, said Louis Martinez, directing business representative for Local 933.
“I think the package was fair, but I’m not happy with the health-care part of it because their are some uncertainties,” Martinez said after the ratification vote at Rincon/University High School.
The contract essentially allows the company to pass through increased health-care costs to employees, potentially increasing costs for prescription drugs by removing caps on the employees share of drug costs, he said.
Raytheon rejected a proposal to use the machinists union's pension plan supplementally, though the company did pledge to increase the minimum company contribution for one plan, Martinez added.
Raytheon said in a prepared statement the company was pleased with the contract ratification. “Together we will continue to produce the world's best weapons and other solutions for our warfighters and customers around the globe,” the company said.
The resounding vote for the contract came after frustrated union leaders sought and won approval from members to hold a vote on whether to strike, which was included in Sunday’s ballot.
The strike vote would have come into play if the ratification vote failed to garner more than 50 percent of the votes cast, the threshold to approve the pact. But only 68 members voted to strike, the union said.
The last strike at Raytheon was in 2006, when union members walked off the job for 10 weeks before the company agreed to increased wage and health benefits, including a wage increase of 3 percent each year.
Aside from pay and benefits, Raytheon and the union reached agreement on a number of workplace issues, including rules on salaried employees performing work related to union members’ duties, work hours and seniority.
Current minimum pay for Raytheon workers covered under the union’s collective bargaining agreement range from $11 an hour for custodians to about $23 for positions including assembly support and maintenance technicians.