Quality Magazine

SPEEA Disappointed by Boeing's Initial Responses

November 7, 2008

SEATTLE – After delaying responses to key union proposals for two months, The Boeing Company on Thursday presented what company negotiators called a “first, full offer” for new three year-contracts covering 20,474 engineers and technical workers. Union leaders called the response incomplete and disappointing.

The company’s response to proposals made by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees (SPEEA), IFPTE, Local 2001, leaves large gaps between Boeing and what is needed by employees who engineer and design the world’s most advanced aerospace products, says SPEEA Executive Director and Chief Spokesperson Ray Goforth.

“We’ve been waiting for a response from the company for more than two months and what we received today is disappointing,” said Goforth. “It is clear difficult talks remain.”

The company’s response included a high-level outline of medical plan changes. More detail was provided in response to the union’s wage proposals. SPEEA negotiators are reviewing the nearly 100 pages of documents passed to them by Boeing negotiators in preparation of presenting counter proposals Friday.

SPEEA delivered a complete proposal to Boeing in September after nearly six months of negotiating in committees. Main Table negotiations between the union and Boeing started Oct. 29. The company delayed the start one day to settle the strike by 27,000 machinists.

“It’s concerning that Boeing continues to point to an artificial deadline of completing talks next week,” says Goforth. “We are prepared to keep negotiating until we have a deal for our members.”

Boeing remains determined to change SPEEA contracts in several areas that union members oppose. The company continues to press for removing Utah engineers from the Professional contract, eliminating the defined benefit pension for new employees, shifting more healthcare costs onto employees and continuing the outsourcing of engineering and design work to suppliers, contractors and overseas companies.

Boeing’s own data shows many union members are paid below average wages for the aerospace industry. Union officials said that for Boeing to remain a market leading company, it must pay industry leading wages. Contract improvements sought by the union also include increasing vacation to industry standards and for the company to follow the example of Airbus North America and honor Martin Luther King Day as a paid holiday.

“If Boeing is looking for a different process to reach agreements with unions without going through a strike, as CEO Jim McNerney said this week, making an offer that completely misses the interests of our members is not that process,” says Alan Rice, chair of the SPEEA Technical Negotiation Team.

SPEEA has called a strike at Boeing twice since organizing in 1946. The first was a one-day strike on January 19, 1993. The second was a 40-day strike that stopped delivers, customer service, engineering and technical work at Boeing from Feb. 9 to March 20, 2000.

Negotiations involve two union contracts. The first covers 13,898 engineers and a second contract for 6,576 technical workers. While the majority of workers are in the Puget Sound region, the contracts cover some employees in Oregon, Utah and California. Both contracts expire December 1.

Negotiations for 700 engineers at Boeing Wichita start Nov. 13. The Wichita contract expires December 5.

A local of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), SPEEA represents more than 24,474 aerospace professionals at Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, KS, Triumph Composite Systems, Inc., in Spokane, WA, and at BAE Systems Inc., in Irving, TX.