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
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
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.,
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.