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Boeing unmoved on latest offer; union slates new vote

Keywords: Tags  aerospace, labor, Boeing, SPEEA, labor contract, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — Boeing Co. and the lone labor holdouts inside its largest white-collar union remain at a standoff as the aerospace giant’s technicians have set another contract vote amid signs that the company isn’t 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.

Boeing’s six-member negotiating team issued a terse statement, noting that the terms of the company’s latest offer "remain unchanged."

While the union’s roughly 15,000 engineers—representing about two-thirds of its membership—recently approved Boeing’s four-year contract deal, about 7,400 SPEEA technicians rejected it and authorized a strike (, Feb. 21).

SPEEA’s negotiating team was scheduled to meet March 1 with technical unit councils—roughly equivalent to shop stewards—after 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, it’s widely assumed they include the company’s 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 union’s leaders could be resigned to not gaining any additional concessions from the company. While the union called the company’s refusal to reinstate the traditional pension for new hires "disappointing," it stressed that Boeing’s 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 (, Oct. 2).

Asked if this reflects an acknowledgement that SPEEA technicians aren’t likely to win further concessions, the spokesman would only say that negotiators are "not making any recommendation on this vote," although it’s 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 didn’t 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.

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