The Boeing bargaining unit of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) has set a date of February 4 for sending strike ballots to its members, union director Ray Goforth told AIN last Wednesday. Members of the Bargaining Unit Council (BUC), consisting of all the company’s “relevant” shop stewards, reached the decision on Tuesday night, during a meeting in which the council agreed to support the negotiating team’s rejection of the company’s “best and final offer.”
Procedures now call for the BUC to engage in wide-ranging discussions with the membership and then convene again on January 31, after Boeing releases its fourth-quarter earnings results, to formally decide whether or not to seek strike authorization.
Following the union’s offer to extend the current contract for another four years, Boeing agreed to maintain SPEEA members’ current salary raise pool of 5 percent and existing medical benefits. It also agreed to extend same-sex survivor pension benefits. However, the company would not retract its proposal to move from a traditional pension plan to a 401(k) retirement plan for future hires, nor would it accept the union’s demands for protections against potential cuts in government retirement benefits.
“While recognizing considerable improvement was made since the resumption of talks with Boeing after the holidays, the teams emphasized the significant takeaways and long-term impact of the offers on current and future members,” said SPEEA in a message to its 23,000 white-collar members. “Team members also explained how company negotiators refused to include safeguards to protect members’ benefits from changes to the Social Security earnings cap and raising the Medicare eligibility age as championed by Boeing CEO Jim McNerney.”
The union cited a CBS News report on a recommendation by a group of prominent CEOs, including McNerney, to raise the Social Security eligibility age from 67 to 70 and raise the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 70. The proposal by the so-called Business Roundtable would also slow the rate of benefit increases for all Social Security recipients and establish a private alternative to Medicare.
“The change in Medicare eligibility that Mr. McNerney is lobbying for would impact 10,487 SPEEA members (those under age 55 who are eligible for retiree medical),” said Goforth in a message to BUC representatives.
“Your SPEEA negotiating team proposed language that would have preserved your retiree medical benefit (from retirement until Medicare eligibility). Boeing rejected this proposal. The fact that Boeing is lobbying to make a cut in your benefits legislatively that it couldn’t achieve at the bargaining table is one of the reasons your negotiating team recommends rejecting the Boeing contract offer.”