SEATTLE -- One of the biggest white-collar walkouts in the country's history has ended. Now comes perhaps the toughest part: delivering planes again.
Boeing Co. engineers and technical workers planned to return to work today after a 40-day walkout, but neither side was predicting a sweet reunion -- or an easy time catching up on deliveries.
''We realize there are many challenges that face us all in the days to come, not the least of which are reintegrating our team and working to recover from the impacts of the strike,'' company CEO Phil Condit said.
Some 9,660 of the 13,440 eligible, dues-paying members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees voted on the three-year contract Sunday, with both engineers and technical workers approving it by more than 70 percent, the union said.
''This has been an emotional time for all involved. We are confident that, with time, we will be able to heal from this unfortunate situation as we strive to continue listening to each other and understanding our mutual interests,'' Condit said in a release.
Boeing missed at least 15 airplane deliveries, and work on some government contracts suffered during the walkout of about 15,000 to 17,000 workers that began Feb. 9.
''I fully expect it could be a couple of months before we get back up to speed,'' said Joel Funter, 36, a technical worker at Boeing Field, south of Seattle.
Funter said some workers were bitter over the long negotiations and final terms that were smaller than those received by members of the larger Machinists union at Boeing.
''A lot of people are not willing to work a lot of overtime ... I'll probably do some because I could use the money. But I think that'll be an individual thing. It will be more to do with lack of money than with loyalty to the company,'' he said.
In its annual report to federal regulators, filed last week, Boeing said the strike would hurt financial performance in the first quarter, which ends March 31, and could affect the second quarter as well.
Union leaders were jubilant at a Sunday evening news conference after the final tally of votes. The contract guarantees wage increases of at least 3 percent each year, in addition to production-linked bonuses.
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