LOS ANGELES Boeing Co. and the lone labor holdouts inside its largest white-collar union remain at a standoff as the aerospace giants technicians have set another contract vote amid signs that the company isnt budging from its latest offer.
Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) union technicians are expected to begin voting in the coming week on a four-year contract after Chicago-based Boeing failed to move from its previous offer.
"We proposed some adjustments to the company and they said No, " an SPEEA spokesman said, referring to what Boeing called its "best and final" offer.
Boeings six-member negotiating team issued a terse statement, noting that the terms of the companys latest offer "remain unchanged."
While the unions roughly 15,000 engineersrepresenting about two-thirds of its membershiprecently approved Boeings four-year contract deal, about 7,400 SPEEA technicians rejected it and authorized a strike (amm.com, Feb. 21).
SPEEAs negotiating team was scheduled to meet March 1 with technical unit councilsroughly equivalent to shop stewardsafter which ballots will go out, with results of the vote expected within about two weeks.
While the SPEEA spokesman declined to disclose which parts of the contract the union sought to revise, its widely assumed they include the companys intent to replace a traditional defined-benefit retirement plan with a 401(k)-style plan for new hires starting March 1.
Meanwhile, following the conclusion of a session this past week with Boeing and federal mediators, SPEEA appeared to indicate that the unions leaders could be resigned to not gaining any additional concessions from the company. While the union called the companys refusal to reinstate the traditional pension for new hires "disappointing," it stressed that Boeings offer, nevertheless, could "lock in" contract improvements that have been gained since the work force in October rejected by a 97-percent margin an initial, "very regressive" offer from the company (amm.com, Oct. 2).
Asked if this reflects an acknowledgement that SPEEA technicians arent likely to win further concessions, the spokesman would only say that negotiators are "not making any recommendation on this vote," although its too early to tell if the individual councils will issue their own recommendations.
While Boeing urged employees "to come together as one team and focus on the challenges facing the company," it didnt specifically mention current problems with the lithium-ion batteries on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which have led the planes to be grounded in recent weeks.
The union represents more than 23,000 Boeing employees, most of whom are in the Puget Sound area of the Pacific Northwest.