LOS ANGELES Technical members of Boeing Co.s largest white-collar union have ratified a new labor agreement, reversing an earlier vote and defusing the possibility of a strike.
The technical members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new four-year contract with the Chicago-based aerospace giant, the union said this week.
The contract, which will run through October 2016, was approved by an 86.6-percent vote. In contrast, workers rejected the same contract by a 53-percent margin in February in a vote paired with a strike-authorization ballot (amm.com, Feb. 21).
However, two developments were seen putting pressure on the technicians to settle: SPEEA members representing the unions 15,000 professional engineers approved a separate but similar four-year agreement, and Boeing subsequently refused to alter what it described as its "best and final offer" (amm.com, March 1).
"The votes by technical workers and engineers in recent weeks will allow us to come together and focus on the challenges and opportunities we face this year," Ray Conner, president and chief executive of the companys Boeing Commercial Airplanes subsidiary, said. Boeings new 787 Dreamliners are currently grounded as the company seeks to resolve lithium-ion battery problems.
During the contract negotiations, SPEEA had suggested that the failure of Boeing to achieve labor peace could have compromised the search for a battery fix. The technicians had been working without a contract since Nov. 25.
The new contracts major benefits for SPEEA technicians include the continuation of wage pools that will result in annual pay hikes of approximately 5 percent, and the extension of the former contracts medical plan with no increased employee contributions, as Boeing had been seeking, a union spokesman in Tukwila, Wash., said.
However, SPEEA technicians acceded to Boeings demand that new hires after March 1 will not receive a traditional defined-benefit pension plan but will instead receive an "enhanced 401(k)" plan. SPEEA engineers also made that concession. As far as winning back its traditional pension plan in the next contract, "that will be up to future negotiation teams," the SPEEA spokesman said.
SPEEA represents more than 23,000 Boeing employees, mainly in the Puget Sound region.