Contract Negotiations are underway between Hawker Beechcraft and it's machinists union - one year before their current contract expires.
It's a rare move, prompted by tough economic conditions and rumors that Hawker Beechcraft may leave the Air Capital.
"We wouldn't be here if we didn't know how much was at stake," explains IAM International President, Tom Buffenbarger.
But the impact of the plane maker's potential move stretches beyond just the bay doors of Hawker Beechcraft.
"I think that we're pretty friendly with a lot of the suppliers in town and I really think that almost everyone that I can think of has Hawker Beechcraft work. So, it would affect, as far as aerospace suppliers, all of us," said Chief Technical Officer, Jason Cox.
Cox works for Cox Machining. Only a small percentage of the supplier's work comes Hawker, but considering the recent recession, the potential of lost work is a scary one.
"It would have a significant impact on all the suppliers sales here in town. There's a lot of folks around here that work for Hawker Beechcraft that would really be hurt if they pulled out of town."
Even those not in aviation are still following the negotiations carefully. Peter Patel opened a smoke shop next door to Hawker Beechcraft three years ago hoping to capitalize on the amount of people working there.
"About 20-25% of my business comes from there."
He and other businesses in the area have discussed the impact of Hawker leaving and the outcome isn't a good one. Some restaurants say up to 80% of their lunch business comes from the aviation workers.
Union leaders have said they feel a new contract is the only way to keep the plane makers from leaving.
The company isn't saying whether that's true.
"We have a series of decisions to make, most of which get made in the next six months. How we make these decisions does effect our presence here in Wichita," said Hawker Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture.
He added that everyone wants to know what the last page of the book says, but only the first page was written on Thursday. Everyone will have to wait to see what the ending will be.
August 13, 2010
Hawker Beechcraft's Machinists Union announced today that negotiations will reopen between its organization and the company.
Hawker Beechcraft and the IAM are currently in a three year contract, set to expire next August. Reopening negotiations will allow for the possibility of a new contract to replace the old before that date.
Bob Wood, spokesperson for the IAM told Eyewitness News that reopening negotiations is unusual. He said both sides have to be in agreement that it's necessary.
In a flyer, posted on the IAM's website it says, "There are several reasons for doing so. We have decided the consequences of inaction would be grim, drastically affecting the employment levels and the future of the Wichita operations. The situation with Hawker Beechcraft is serious, and they are looking at several possibilities to move jobs from Wichita. As you know, the Salina plant is already closing."
Wood added the IAM's goal will be to give security to as many jobs as it can.
Workers say they were surprised by the announcement and some say they were unhappy with the news. Many fear a new contract would mean cuts to the deal they went on strike to get.
"We fought for what we have now. So, to go backwards, I don' think so," said Rhonda Clore.
Statement from Hawker Beechcraft:We continue to experience unprecedented times for the business and general aviation industry worldwide and in Wichita.
We have been meeting with the Union leadership for the last several weeks in a constructive and frank manner to discuss these challenges and potential solutions. We have been open about these discussions being vitally important to the future presence of Hawker Beechcraft in Wichita.
From these conversations, the Union leaders have agreed to open negotiations and we are pleased to have the opportunity to partner with them to do so.
As we begin this process, we are confident these discussions will continue to focus on all aspects that are required to strengthen Hawker Beechcraft and sustain it for the future.
Hawker Beechcraft Corporation