Boeing, SPEEA can’t agree where to do mediation

Herald staff

The Boeing Co. said Friday that federal officials have responded to its request for help in talks with the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, and a mediator could meet as early as Monday in Washington, D.C. But the company said the union has declined to meet that day.

The union, meanwhile, says it’s been in contact with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, too, but SPEEA isn’t willing to move negotiations to D.C. It’s ready and willing to meet at the usual place — in Tukwila.

“It’s just bizarre,” SPEEA executive director Ray Goforth said late Friday. “We really don’t know what they’re doing.”

The company says it contacted the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service on Thursday after what both sides described as a frustrating negotiating session. “The deputy director of the FMCS told Boeing that he would be available to meet with SPEEA and Boeing in Washington, D.C., beginning on Monday,” the company said in a statement.

“Boeing then asked SPEEA if they would attend,” the company said. “Unfortunately, SPEEA is declining to attend on Monday. We hope SPEEA will reconsider.”

Goforth said he had a conference call with apparently different mediation officials Friday morning. “I explained that we were happy to fold them (the mediators) into the negotiations but, once again, we didn’t have negotiating dates with Boeing,” Goforth said. “They said they hadn’t heard from Boeing since Wednesday.”

Later Friday, a Boeing negotiator via email proposed the Washington, D.C., meeting, Goforth said, which the union declined because it would have been “on the other coast.”

And that’s where things stood at 5 p.m. Friday.

SPEEA represents 22,765 Puget Sound area engineers and technical workers, who are responsible for designing, testing and signing off on deliveries of Boeing aircraft.

The two sides first began talking informally about a new contract nearly 18 months ago. Formal negotiations started in the summer. Union members strongly rejected an initial contract offer Oct. 1.

The SPEEA negotiations update Web page is here, and Boeing’s is here.