March 7, 2011 / 4:20 AM / 7 years ago

Lockheed union workers approve labor pact

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp said on Sunday union workers voted to ratify a three-year labor pact that provides annual pay increases and a ratification bonus.

Thousands of workers represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Marietta, Georgia, Meridian, Mississippi, and Clarksburg, West Virginia, voted to accept the company’s final offer, Lockheed spokeswoman Erica Crosling said in an email.

Union negotiators had urged workers to reject the proposed contract and authorize a strike in votes held on Sunday.

Union leaders in Georgia said the pact increases retiree insurance premiums and provides new hires with a worse retirement plan.

“New employees would not have a pension,” said Denise Rakestraw, president of Local 709 of the machinists union, which represents more than 3,000 Lockheed workers in Marietta, Georgia.

The machinist union workers in Georgia approved Lockheed’s offer by a vote of 1,366 to 1,006, Local 709 said.

Lockheed said its final offer called for guaranteed wage increases totaling 8.5 percent over three years, a $2,500 ratification bonus and annual cost of living increases. It said workers hired before March 6, 2011, will maintain their defined benefit pension plan.

Lockheed also proposed a retirement plan for new workers under which they would get a quarterly company contribution of $350 per employee.

Crosling said Lockheed, which faces pressure from the U.S. government to rein in development costs for its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, needs to remain competitive as many of its rivals do not offer defined pension benefit plans.

As the U.S. Defense Department looks to pare overhead and make weapons programs more affordable, Lockheed has cut staff through voluntary buyouts and sold non-core divisions.

Lockheed, the world’s biggest defense contractor, has about 132,000 workers worldwide.

Reporting by Karen Jacobs; Editing by Vinu Pilakkott

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