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Originally published October 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 21, 2008 at 11:43 AM

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Boeing, Machinists will meet with mediators Thursday

Boeing and the Machinists union will resume talks in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, which will be day 48 of the ongoing strike.

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

Boeing and the Machinists union will resume talks in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, which will be day 48 of the strike.

Arthur Rosenfeld, director of the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), announced Monday the agency had notified negotiators on both sides that "he wants the parties to reconvene negotiations under the auspices of the FMCS in the nation's capital."

Rosenfeld called the strike by the International Association of Machinists (IAM) "a priority matter for this agency."

Mark Blondin, the union's aerospace coordinator, said he didn't know what development might have spurred the mediator to recall the parties.

In the past week, Blondin said, he had no meetings with Boeing and only three brief conversations with the mediator.

"I don't want to give anyone any false hope and I don't want to crush optimism either," he said.

The strike, which began Sept. 6, has idled more than 27,000 Machinists and halted production of jetliners.

Talks resumed briefly Oct. 12 but reached an impasse the next day. Negotiators didn't get past an outsourcing issue to other areas of disagreement — including pay.

Those talks, also brokered by the FMCS, deadlocked over outsourcing the jobs of members who deliver parts to assembly lines.

In those talks, Boeing agreed not to lay off the roughly 2,000 Machinists who currently do that work, despite a long-term plan to introduce automation and participation by outside vendors that would reduce the Machinists doing that job over time.

An IAM statement posted Monday afternoon on the union Web site told members the strike will continue: "We hope this marks a major step forward to resolve this strike. It is important as we move forward that we continue to stay strong on the picket lines."

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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