WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), the Pentagon’s top supplier by sales, began using temporary workers on Thursday in place of striking employees at its plant in Fort Worth, Texas, to help meet scheduled deliveries of F-16 and F-35 fighter jets.
Fewer than 10 temporary workers, hired through a contractor, were brought in to supplement the “contingency work force” that includes managers, said Lockheed spokesman Joe Stout. Another 50 to 60 temporary workers will be added on Tuesday, and the company will bring in more as needed, Stout said in an email.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, or IAM, which represents 3,300 of 14,250 workers at the plant, has been on strike since April 23.
The temporary workers will come to the company “with skills and experience that will allow them to become productive contributors in our factory in a very short time,” Stout said.
He said Lockheed, based in Bethesda, Maryland, wanted to make sure it could “continue to meet the commitments we’ve made to our customers in the F-35 and F-16 programs.”
“We still want the IAM members to come back to work as soon as possible,” he said. The IAM chief in Fort Worth, Paul Black, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lockheed said it had achieved “customer acceptance” on Thursday of a new F-16 jet produced for a foreign air force, the second F-16 to complete the acceptance process since the strike began. It also has delivered three radar-evading F-35s to Eglin Air Force Base, a training facility, since the start of the strike, Stout said.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, at a projected $397 billion for 2,443 aircraft over the coming two decades, is the Pentagon’s largest weapons program.
Reporting By Jim Wolf; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa