Labor Woes Hit Boeing and Alitalia

Sept. 10, 2008
Machinists are on strike against the plane manufacturer. The Italian airline’s labor groups reject the rescue plan

Machinists are on strike against the plane manufacturer. The Italian airline’s labor groups reject the rescue plan.

Ramifications of the Boeing strike mean, at a minimum, delay of production of a number of aircraft, including the already often re-scheduled 787 Dreamliner. Further, global aerospace suppliers to Boeing are already making plans to cut production and lay off workers should the job action stretch on for any length of time.

In fact, outsourcing of production of components to others along the global supply chain is an issue that seems to loom larger than wages in the strike by 27,000 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) against the world’s largest manufacturer of airplanes.

In commenting on its reasons for striking, IAM International president, Tom Buffenbarger claimed, “The absence of job security language was a key reason why members rejected the company’s earlier offer and it is why Boeing is now facing the second major strike in three years. We’ve learned it’s not enough to have a good-paying job if that job can disappear at any time.”

Over the course of the work stoppage Boeing has said it will continue delivering airplanes that were completed prior to the strike, and will continue providing customers with spare parts. Boeing does not intend to assemble airplanes during the strike.

Within hours of the explanation of the plan to save Alitalia in its revised form by its new CEO, Rocco Sabelli, the Italian General Labor Union (UGL) rejected it. Previously, pilot and flight attendant unions had come out against the plan, noting that the plan was absolutely unacceptable.

Under the aegis of the Italian government which owns 49% of Alitalia, a new airline is to be created from the ashes of the old. The new airline, Compagnia Aerea Italiana (CAI), would retain a significant portion of Alitalia and merge it with Italy’s Air One airline while finding a strategic foreign partner. The plan does not include maintaining Alitalia’s air freight business which represents another sticking point for the unions.

The government has put the unions on notice, saying that if the entire matter is not resolved within weeks, Alitalia faces liquidation.

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