Boeing CEO says expects union deal in "few weeks"

CHARLESTON, South Carolina Mon Oct 1, 2012 5:02pm EDT

Boeing CEO Jim McNerney waits to be introduced to speak, in front of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner under construction as U.S. President Barack Obama (not pictured) toured the Boeing facility in Everett, Washington February 17, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Boeing CEO Jim McNerney waits to be introduced to speak, in front of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner under construction as U.S. President Barack Obama (not pictured) toured the Boeing facility in Everett, Washington February 17, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - Boeing Co.(BA.N) Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney said on Monday he expects contract talks with the company's 23,000 unionized engineers to result in a "successful resolution over the next few weeks."

McNerney spoke as members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace in Seattle were widely expected to reject Boeing's offer for a new contract to replace one that expires October 6. The engineers can continue working after the contract expires, and a separate vote is required to authorize a strike.

McNerney called the union talks "not atypical," adding, "We're marching through a normal negotiation-type process."

Speaking at a business conference in South Carolina, he said "Boeing lives in environments that have unions and environments that don't have unions."

He defended the 787 Dreamliners that were coming off the production line at the company's North Charleston plant, dismissing fires in two cracked shafts in two General Electric GENx engines as "growing pains."

"Any new airplane program, particularly when you're building an airplane out of a completely new set of materials like this one, goes through some growing pains," he told reporters.

Charleston's "manufacturing process had to go through some growing pains, but I would categorize it more as normal than abnormal," he said.

McNerney said Boeing was working with regulators and anticipated the 787 Dreamliner production "will keep marching ahead." McNerney said.

The North Charleston plant has 6,000 employees.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Editing by Alwyn Scott)

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