June 24, 2012 / 1:14 PM / 7 years ago

Lockheed, union in tentative pact to end strike

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp, the Pentagon’s No. 1 supplier by sales, said it had reached a tentative deal with a union that has been on strike for eight weeks at a Fort Worth, Texas, assembly plant for its F-16 and F-35 fighter aircraft.

A bargaining committee of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers will recommend that union members accept a revised labour contract offer at a ratification vote this week, the company said in a statement early Sunday.

The union, known as the IAM, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It represents about 3,600 striking Lockheed employees at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, as well as in Fort Worth.

Terms of the tentative deal were not disclosed. The agreement was announced after meetings Wednesday through Saturday facilitated by the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Members of the IAM rejected the company’s previous offer on April 22 and went on strike on April 23, largely over pension and health care benefits.

Lockheed has been under pressure from the Pentagon to curb such costs, a contributor to overruns in the nearly $400 billion F-35 program for the planned purchase of 2,443 aircraft. It is the Pentagon’s costliest arms purchase yet.

Three versions of the radar-evading F-35 are being built for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Eight countries helped fund the development and are in varying stages of buying it - Britain, Norway, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Turkey, Australia and Italy. Japan and Israel have placed multibillion-dollar orders for the aircraft.

The company had turned to temporary workers to maintain production schedules for the F-35 and the multirole F-16, updated versions of which are still being built for export.

Editing by Doina Chiacu

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