HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Workers at Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. ratified a new contract Sunday covering about 5,100 of the helicopter maker’s unionized employees in Connecticut and Florida.

The five-year collective bargaining agreement takes effect at midnight Monday between Sikorsky and members of Teamsters Local 1150.

Teamsters leaders said Sunday that the new contract includes wage increases of 18.5 percent over its five-year span; ratification bonuses of $5,000 per employee; and company increases to pension and 401k contributions.

The salary increases total 3.5 percent in each of the first three years and 4 percent in the last two years, union secretary-treasurer Rocco Calo said Sunday.

“The members of the union negotiating committee are pleased with the outcome of these negotiations and understand that, in this difficult economy, we are fortunate to be working with one of the rare companies that are prospering in hard times,” the union leaders said in a statement.

Negotiations began in December and were more successful than in 2006, when discord over health care costs and insurance led to a six-week strike. That walkout ended when union members narrowly approved a contract accepting terms similar to those they had earlier rejected.

Sikorsky, based in Stratford, is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. It makes the Army’s workhorse Black Hawk – used for air assault and medical evacuation – as well as other helicopters.

Laurie Havanec, Sikorsky’s vice president of human resources, said Sunday that the company is “extremely pleased” by the contract ratification.

“The long-term labor stability this five-year agreement provides will be beneficial for our employees and our customers in these challenging economic times,” Havanec said. “The negotiating teams on both sides worked hard to reach an agreement that meets employees’ needs while helping Sikorsky to remain competitive.”

The workers covered under the new contract are hourly employees at Sikorsky’s Stratford, Bridgeport and Shelton locations in Connecticut, along with about 600 at its facility in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The company is benefiting from strong military sales and doing well in a brutal recession. Sikorsky posted a 28 percent increase in profits last year over 2007 and has a $13 billion backlog that could keep workers busy this year.

Sikorsky says it expects to deliver between 230 and 240 helicopters this year, up from 204 in 2008, due mainly to military sales.

Calo said Sunday that job security provisions in the existing contract were carried over into the new contract, but that they hope the backlog of work will make that a moot issue.

“I think we’re extremely secure for the next five years minimum, and there’s a lot of stuff on the horizon,” he said.

Union leaders said in a statement Sunday that in addition to the wage increases, the contract includes a health care package to save money on prescription drugs; more flexibility in how vacation and personal time is used; increased benefits for life and disability insurance; and 66 paid holidays over the five-year duration.


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