Boeing and Seattle-area union delay start of contract negotiations

(Reuters) -Boeing and its Seattle-area machinists union have delayed the opening of contract negotiations until early March as the company deals with the grounding of the 737 MAX 9.

Formal negotiations were set to begin in early February and were pushed back at Boeing’s request, said the union on its website.

Both Boeing and its largest union — District 751 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers —have been named as parties of an ongoing National Transportation Safety Board investigation into midair cabin panel blowout on an Alaska Airlines MAX 9 earlier this month.

“While we focus on the 737-9 and the actions we’re taking on quality, we look forward to bargaining in good faith later this year,” Boeing said.

IAM District 751’s contract agreement with Boeing ends on midnight on Sept. 12. The union represents about 31,000 workers in the area around Puget Sound, Washington.

(Reporting by Valerie Insinna in WashingtonEditing by Chris Reese, Lisa Shumaker and Franklin Paul)