By Doug Cameron
Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) workers that have struck for almost 10 weeks at its main F-35 Joint Strike Fighter facility are due to return to work Monday after voting in favor of a new contract.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said members ratified the tentative deal reached over the weekend.
The move will end a dispute involving 3,600 staff at Lockheed's facility in Fort Worth, Texas, and at two Air Force bases. They walked out on April 23 after rejecting the previous contract's provisions on health and pension benefit.
"The agreement accepted by the IAM provides the union members general wage increases, cash payments, a choice of health plans, and other compensation and benefits," the union said of the new four-year pact. It said on its website that 80% voted in favor.
The two sides started federally mediated talks last week, and the resolution comes at a critical time for Lockheed as it remains locked in talks with the Pentagon over another order for the advanced new F-35 fighter jets.
The company has tried to minimize the effects of the strike by bringing in temporary contract workers and mobilizing managers in production, but acknowledged in recent weeks that work in Fort Worth had slowed from pre-strike levels.
The F-35, the Pentagon's costliest weapons project, has for several years been under close scrutiny in Washington, D.C., over cost overruns and schedule delays, though Lockheed has said flight testing has moved ahead of schedule.
Lockheed was not immediately available for comment.
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