LOS ANGELES Boeing
Co.s largest white-collar union split in a vote on the
companys latest labor contract offer, raising the
possibility that technical workersbut not
engineersat the aerospace giant could go on strike.
Some 15,000 engineers accepted
Boeings proposed four-year deal, but some 7,400
technicians turned down the companys contract offer, the
Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace
(SPEEA) union said this week.
Chicago-based Boeing said it was
pleased that the engineers approved the contract, but it was
"deeply disappointed" that technicians turned down its offer
and authorized a strike. Union members have been working
without a contract at Boeing since November.
Meanwhile, hours after the vote
results were announced, SPEEA said it had contacted Boeing and
a federal mediator in an attempt to resume talks. A union
spokesman wasnt able to provide a response from Boeing,
and a company spokesman couldnt be reached for comment.
Boeing has already called the contract that was rejected by
technicians its "best and final" offer.
SPEEA engineers voted 54 percent
in favor of Boeings contract proposal, while technicians
rejected it by a margin of 53 percent. However, in a separate
vote, both groups voted to give union officials authorization
to strike. While the SPEEA spokesman acknowledged the split
vote was "a bit of a surprise," he described the agreement on a
strike authorization as "a real sign of solidarity" between the
engineers and technical workers.
However, the union has
acknowledged that while engineers and technicians bargain at
the same time, their labor agreements are "separate and
independent." Should technical workers walk out, the engineers
would not be authorized to call a sympathy strike and would
continue working, SPEEA said, but the engineers could "provide
inside support" to the technicians; further explanation was not
While Boeings offer
extended several components of its previous contracts,
including 5-percent annual wage hikes and no increases in
employee contributions for medical coverage, new hires would be
offered a 401(k)-type retirement package instead of a more
traditional pension package, which the union claims would slash
retirement benefits by more than 40 percent. Moreover, the
union said, Boeing has refused to ensure that existing
employees benefits wont be affected by changes to
Social Security regulations that are now being considered by
Boeing was compelled to make
changes from its previous retirement packages by the "realities
of the market" in todays "competitive environment," Ray
Conner, president and chief executive officer of the aerospace
manufacturers Boeing Commercial Airplanes subsidiary,
said in a statement.
Boeings previous contract
offer was rejected by more than 95 percent of union engineers
and technicians (
amm.com, Oct. 12). The union represents more than
23,000 Boeing employees, most of whom are in the Puget Sound
area of the Pacific Northwest.
The unions last extended
strike was a 40-day walkout in 2000, which reportedly caused
major production delays at Boeing.