Boeing Averts Another Strike

 - December 2, 2008, 10:44 AM

Boeing engineers and technical workers represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) yesterday voted to approve a pair of new four-year contracts. The deals, one approved by SPEEA’s Technical Unit and the other by the union’s separate Professional Unit by margins of 69 percent and 79 percent respectively, came as a huge relief to a company that only recently ended a two-month machinists strike that contributed to yet another delay of the 787 Dreamliner and 747-8.

“Passage of these contracts represents a first step in restoring the relationship between Boeing management and its engineering and technical workforce,” said SPEEA executive director and chief spokesperson Ray Goforth. “We have a lot of work to breathe life into the text of these agreements and we still need to finish negotiations in Wichita.”

The contracts involve 20,500 SPEEA members. Some 700 workers at Boeing’s Wichita plant resumed negotiations today on a separate deal. The sides agreed to extend those negotiations beyond the original December 5 expiration. 

The agreements provide salary increase pools of 5 percent in each year of the contract. Engineers in the professional unit won guarantees of at least 2 percent each year, while technical unit workers will get at least 2.5 percent during each year of the contract. The union also negotiated improvements in medical coverage and retirement benefits and the company agreed to maintain the defined benefit pension for new employees. Boeing agreed not to exclude engineers in Utah from the professional unit contract. Finally, the new contract guarantees the SPEEA members a voice in future decisions on outsourcing and a process to take voluntary layoffs with benefits.

Union leaders said members voiced concerns about “management misdirection” and lack of respect for employees for months. “These were the toughest negotiations I’ve been involved with,” said professional negotiation team chair and three-time negotiator Dave Patzwald. According to SPEEA, member discontent grew out of frustration over corporate decisions that the union claims have caused continued delays to the 787 and 747-8, fastener problems on multiple aircraft and a drive to hire more contract labor while pushing existing employees to work more and more overtime.

SPEEA and Boeing started negotiating the new agreements in April. Negotiation teams reached tentative agreement on the two contract offers on November 14.