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Spirit Aerosystems making plans to resume full operations in Oklahoma

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Spirit Aerosystems Inc. told its 8,600 employees in Kansas and Oklahoma Tuesday that it would soon resume full operations if striking Machinists at Boeing Co. ratify their contract.

Spirit Aerosystems -- the company formed after Onex Corp. bought out Boeing's commercial operations in Wichita, Tulsa, Okla., and McAlester, Okla. -- had been working shortened three-day weeks since 18,400 Boeing Machinists walked off the job.

Boeing is the company's sole customer.

A tentative deal reached by Boeing and its Machinists union goes to a vote Thursday.

"It is certainly a positive step," Boeing spokesman Fred Solis said. "Just like everybody even touched by it, we are hopeful it will be resolved."

If that vote passes, Spirit Aerosystems workers will continue to work three days for the remainder of this week, executive vice president Ron Brunton told employees in a memo. That will increase to four work days next week and five work days the following week.

If the contract is not ratified, Spirit Aerosystems plans to continue its shortened work week, according to the memo.

"We just wanted to communicate with our employees and put together some preliminary plans that hopefully we will be able to implement following the vote on Thursday," Solis said.

Members of the Machinists union walked off the job on Sept. 2 at Boeing plants in the Seattle area; Gresham, Ore.; and Wichita. The union represents 18,400 people at the three facilities, including 960 at its defense operations in Wichita.

The strike raised fears of layoffs at Boeing suppliers, particularly at the fledgling Spirit Aerosystems plants in Kansas and Oklahoma that still depend entirely on Boeing business. Instead of layoffs, Spirit shortened the work week and gave employees the option of taking vacation time for the remaining days to keep their full paychecks coming.

"Spirit did take a look at the whole picture -- the business side of it, plus the people side of it -- and wanted very much to find a balance between something that was obviously going to preserve the company and allow it to continue and also something that would spare the employees as much as possible," Solis said. "I think that says a lot about the leadership that decided to take that approach.
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