ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Union machinists have approved a deal with Boeing that could keep thousands of jobs in St. Louis through 2022.
The International Association of Machinists District 837 voted 1,269-449 in favor of the deal that supporters say will avoid layoffs, cut costs and hopefully lead to future projects for Boeing.
The contract extension will buy out many older, more experienced workers and make room for newer, less expensive employees.
With a production contract for the F/A-18 Super Hornet coming to an end in 2016, a union spokesperson says Sunday's contract approval was vital toward securing future work.
"If it would've gone the other way, we would have just went to the bargaining table in Jan. 2015 with about 300-500 people laid off and no winning of new work because we didn't get the wage rates down," said Gordon King, President Directing Business Representative for the IAW District 837.
But critics say they're getting a raw deal.
Mark Kirk is one of around 200 workers with decades of experience who won't qualify for the early retirement deal. He says he and others will lose thousands of dollars in retirement benefits because their pensions will be frozen at the end of 2015.
"They're all approximate numbers, 230 thousand dollars that we're going to be deprived of in retirement," Kirk said.
Kirk says he'll now be forced to work past age 62 in order to retire without going broke.
"I want to ask the company and the union if they can go back to the table and find a reasonable solution for us," he said.
King says the deal is unfortunate for workers like Kirk, but they were given an enhanced 401k to help offset the difference.
King added the union could try to renegotiate with Boeing but that it would be extremely tough since the contract has already been approved.