Union workers at defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. in Akron have approved a plant-closing agreement with the company, which last year said it plans to shutter the local facility.
The agreement calls for workers to receive 12 months of health-care benefits, with the company picking up the cost of premiums. The agreement also covers severance and other items, including three “retention payments” — incentives designed to keep workers on hand at the Akron plant to finish up various contracts.
Workers — members of Local 856 of the United Auto Workers — would get all three payments if they remain on the job until they are laid off.
Chuck Stayshich, vice president of Local 856, said Monday that the agreement helps, “but when it’s all said and done, we’re going to be out of jobs.”
UAW Local 856 represents about 100 of the 500 or so affected workers in Akron. Most of the affected workers — roughly 400 — are salaried.
Defense giant Lockheed Martin, headquartered in Bethesda, Md., said in November that it planned to close the facility, off U.S. Route 224, along with four other operations around the country by early 2015. The local operations date to Goodyear Aircraft decades ago; Lockheed Martin took them over in 1996.
The union members’ approval of the plant-closing language was not unexpected. Officials with the union said last year they expected to reach such a pact.
Union members voted on the pact Sunday, overwhelmingly approving it. A total of 78 members cast votes, with 74 voting in favor.
Stayshich said union bargaining committee members recommended approval. Committee members met with company officials last week to reach the agreement.
The agreement calls for the union workers to receive services from an outplacement firm, as well as money — up to $1,500 — for schooling and retraining.
Lockheed Martin’s decision triggered sadness and anger from employees and local public officials when last November it revealed plans to close the Akron operations. It said about 500 of its 600 total workers in Akron would be affected. The company issued a statement in November that said, “With the exception of operations at the Akron airdock, operations in Akron are planned to close by early 2015.”
Stayshich said that very few union workers are expected to be employed at the Airdock. He said workers will be laid off in phases and he has learned in recent weeks that some workers may not be laid off until late in 2015.
Lockheed Martin has used the cavernous Airdock for small tethered blimps called aerostats as well as for a high-tech, solar-powered blimp prototype. The airdock was built in 1929, the outgrowth of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s Goodyear Zeppelin Corp., and was used for the construction of many Goodyear blimps.
Lockheed said in November it was closing the facilities in Akron and at other sites “to increase efficiency of its operations and improve the affordability of its products and services” in the face of “continued declines in U.S. government spending.” About 82 percent of the company’s 2012 revenue of $47.2 billion came from the federal government.
The Akron campus is part of Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training division that provides flight simulators, missile defense systems, radar systems and more.
Other Lockheed operations scheduled to close are in Newtown, Pa.; Goodyear, Ariz.; Horizon City, Texas; and four buildings on its Sunnyvale, Calif., campus.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781.