Gov. Mark Parkinson’s office confirmed today that he has been in contact with the parties in the Hawker Beechcraft labor dispute and is urging them to settle their differences and keep the company in Wichita.
Parkinson, who earlier floated a financial incentive package aimed at heading off the possibility of the company moving its 6,000 Wichita-area jobs to Louisiana, has contacted both Hawker Beechcraft chief executive officer Bill Boisture and Machinists Union business representative Steve Rooney, said gubernatorial aide Amy Jordan Wooden.
“The Governor has spoken with Mr. Boisture and Mr. Rooney and encouraged them to keep their lines of communication open,” Jordan Wooden said in an e-mail response to questions from Wichitopekington. “He told them that if they can reach an agreement that is acceptable to both the company and the majority of the union members, the state’s incentive package is still available.”
Exactly what is in the incentive package is being kept confidential by the governors’ office and the parties in the labor dispute, but U.S Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, said he thinks it’s less than 10 percent of the $400 million in public aid Louisiana is rumored to have offered to get the company to move to Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capital city.
The Kansas incentives are contingent on company management agreeing to keep about two-thirds of the jobs it now has in Kansas, and the union and management agreeing to a long-term labor contract.
On Saturday, the Machinists’ 2,600 members voted down a proposed contract with give-backs including a 10 percent salary cut and increased co-payments on health benefits.
Boisture has said no further talks are planned with the union, which continues to work under a contract due to expire in August.
But local officials, who expect to be asked to provide some of the money for the state incentive package, say they are optimistic that the two sides will eventually return to bargaining.