Lockheed brings in more workers as strike drags on

WASHINGTON, Fri Jun 15, 2012 – Lockheed Martin Corp., under intense pressure from the Pentagon to reduce labor and pension costs, said on Thursday it would hire more temporary workers to maintain production at its Fort Worth, Texas, plant, where a key union has been on strike for eight weeks, mainly over future pension benefits.

Lockheed spokesman Joe Stout said the company had hired almost 300 temporary workers already, and had borrowed about 50 non-union workers from other sites in Texas, Georgia, California and South Carolina for welding and other specific jobs.

He declined to say how many more temporary workers would be hired at the Fort Worth plant where Lockheed builds the F-35 fighter jet, noting that the company’s plan was “to keep adding them as long as the strike continues.”

In addition, he said about 510 members, or about 14 percent, of the striking International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers had returned to work at the Texas plant and two military bases in California and Maryland.

The strike began on April 23, after a third restructuring of the F-35, the Pentagon’s largest weapons program, which delayed full rate production by six years until 2019 and left uncertain when the military would start using the new stealthy aircraft.

The Government Accountability Office released a report on Thursday which cited continuing concern about the high level of overlap between development, testing and production on the program. It said the first four production contracts had cost overruns of more than $1 billion and retrofits had cost at least $373 million to date, but the bill could rise.

“More design and manufacturing changes are expected as testing continues, bringing risks for more contract overruns and concurrency costs,” the office said in its report.