Lockheed Martin and the Machinists union have agreed to meet Wednesday with a federal mediator, a sign that both sides may be looking for a way to settle a strike by the union that is now in its ninth week.
Federal mediators had offered previously to meet and try to help the union and company work out an agreement but were rebuffed.
“We welcome the opportunity to find a resolution to the strike,” Lockheed spokesman Joe Stout said in a brief statement.
“The IAM welcomes the involvement of federal mediators and we’re looking forward to the face-to-face meetings with Lockheed,” said IAM Aerospace General Vice President Mark Blondin said in a statement. The statement added “we’re hopeful the (mediator) can provide the independent perspective that often produces the framework for a resolution.”
The action comes as a growing part of the union membership has grown increasingly restive. The strike has gone on longer than many workers said had they expected with no sign that Lockheed was willing to meet budge from its position on the key pension and health care issues.
Several union members said Monday they were pleased to hear that both Machinists and Lockheed had agreed to meet with the federal mediator and resume negotiations.
Lockheed said an additional 34 workers crossed the picket line in Fort Worth on Monday bringing the total to 295 since the strike began, less than 10 percent of the local union membership. Another 240 union members have crossed at Edwards Air Force Base in California and the Navy’s Patuxent River flight test center in Maryland.
Lockheed in recent weeks has begun hiring temporary replacement workers, with about 380 as of Monday and more coming later in the week. If the strike continues, Stout said, the company could hire as many as 2,000 temporary workers.
The Machinists leadership suffered a setback last Wednesday when they were informed the National Labor Relations Board regional office in Fort Worth had dismissed the first three of seven unfair labor practice charges filed against Lockheed.
The union said it would appeal the decisions, a process that could take weeks or months.