Boeing Engineers Set To Respond to Contract Offer

 - October 1, 2012, 12:15 PM
SPEEA-represented engineers and technicians rally outside Boeing’s factory in Renton, Washington, on September 26. (Photo: SPEEA)

The Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) expected to finish counting ballots cast by Boeing engineers and technicians on a new four-year contract proposal on Monday evening. Boeing’s offer, which SPEEA leadership urged its 23,000 Boeing members to reject, calls for an average 3.5-percent raise for engineers for each year of the agreement and average pay hikes for technicians of 3 percent for the first year, followed by 2.5 percent in each subsequent year.

Speaking with AIN last week, SPEEA director Ray Goforth called the entire offer “a breathtaking grab at power.” Apart from various cuts in benefits, Boeing’s proposal calls for the elimination of several contractual guarantees, such as those related to 401(k) plans, leaves of absence and medical benefits, making what SPEEA calls almost every key element subject to unilateral change by the company. In all cases, responded Boeing, it proposed the changes “as part of an effort to streamline the policies in place for various employee groups across the enterprise.”

Meanwhile, the company has questioned the motivation behind SPEEA’s decision to send the initial written offer directly to a vote, and, in Boeing’s words, abandon the negotiating process.

Goforth said that SPEEA considered the offer so bad, it saw little use in returning with a counterproposal. “We’ve been meeting for six months, so we had been negotiating,” he stressed. “It’s pretty obvious that [Boeing] had a strategy to tender this really awful offer and make us beg to make it less awful.”

Goforth said he saw a drastic change in the company’s approach to the negotiations when, in June, Ray Conner replaced Jim Albaugh as CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Before that time, said the SPEEA director, engineers in Boeing management led what he described as candid discussions about both sides’ interests. “When Albaugh left, that ceased,” said Goforth. “Corporate took over the negotiations, and when they took over the negotiations, engineering leadership stopped talking. Instead of hearing things like ‘engineering is the center of value creation at the company,’ we started hearing things like ‘your members are lucky to have jobs.’”

In a statement to AIN, Boeing vehemently denied Goforth’s charges.

“That was never said by any member of the Boeing negotiating team,” insisted a company spokesman. “And I can tell you that no one on the team feels that way. We’re absolutely committed to achieving a contract that rewards our employees for their many contributions, while ensuring our workforce remains competitive for future work in the long term.”