Boeing provider Spirit AeroSystems stops manufacturing at Wichita plant

Airplane fuselages bound for Boeing’s 737 Max production facility await shipment on rail sidings at their top supplier, Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc, in Wichita, Kansas, US December 17, 2019.

Nick Oxford | Reuters

Boeing suppliers Spirit AeroSystems halted work at a Wichita, Kansas, plant on Thursday after workers voted against a new labor deal and for a strike. Spirit makes fuselages for Boeing’s 737 Max and pylons for airbus A220s at the plant.

“In light of the decision to strike by Spirit AeroSystems employees represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers today, Spirit will suspend factory production prior to the expiration of the contract,” Spirit said.

The issue comes as Boeing is trying to ramp up production of 737 Max planes. Boeing has some Spirit-made fuselages in inventory but declined to say how many or what the impact of the production halt would be on Boeing’s output of 737s.

“I want to encourage all of us to stay focused on our task at hand, which is to continue to build and deliver the finest airplanes in the world,” Stan Deal, CEO of Boeing’s commercial airplane unit, said in a note to employees on Thursday. “We will update all of you as we gain further insights from our partners at Spirit.”

The production halt began with the first shift on Thursday, two days before the contract covering roughly 6,000 workers is set to expire. The strike is scheduled to begin just after midnight on Saturday, the union said.

“The IAM’s dedicated and hardworking membership at Spirit AeroSystems has worked without fail during tumultuous times, including a pandemic that saw everything grind to a halt,” the union said in a statement. “Most of our members have concluded that the company’s offer is unacceptable. IAM District 70 and Local 839 will regroup and begin planning the following steps to bring the company back to the table.”

The union said that 79% of workers voted against the contract and 85% voted for the strike.

Spirit shares were down about 9% in early-afternoon trading, while Boeing’s were off more than 2%.

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