By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer
The Boeing Co. and a 22,765-member union of engineers and technical workers seem as far apart as ever after months of negotiations over a new contract. Talks resume next Tuesday after weeks of little activity.
The situation has prompted some engineers — the ones who certify Boeing jets on behalf of the government — to meet this week to discuss ways to show their frustration.
Those “authorized representatives,” as they are called, have the final say on whether planes are ready to be delivered to customers. They could send a signal to Boeing simply by deciding to strictly abide by policies and contract provisions — for example, by refusing voluntary overtime. The result could be a slower rate of jet deliveries.
Leaders of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace are asking all members “what they can do in their areas” to demonstrate disappointment over the lack of progress in negotiations, said Bill Dugovich, the union’s communications director.
In some areas, that means marching during lunch breaks or refusing overtime. In others, it means following company rules to a T, which can affect efficiency.
“We’re seeing a lot of anger in the workplace,” Dugovich said.
SPEEA leaders aren’t ready to ask members to go on strike, nor have they asked for the authority to call a strike. And with Boeing’s annual two-week year-end shutdown on the horizon, a strike wouldn’t put pressure on Boeing until after the holidays anyway.
“We’re still focused on negotiating a new contract,” Dugovich said.
From Boeing’s perspective, there hasn’t been much focus by SPEEA. The company has received counterproposals from the union only on “minor issues” since SPEEA members voted down a company offer on Oct. 1, spokesman Doug Alder said.
More than a month later, it’s difficult for the two sides to even schedule a meeting.
There was an “off-the-record” session earlier this week, but then Boeing and SPEEA couldn’t get together for formal talks.
“We were supposed to be at the table today,” Alder said Thursday. Instead, “we’re waiting six more days.”
Over the summer, SPEEA leaders proposed annual wage increases of 7.5 percent. In September, Boeing offered 2 percent to 3.5 percent. Boeing’s negotiating team had planned Thursday to present revised thinking on wages and health care benefits.
“That would pretty much take us to … what would be our next offer,” Alder said.
But on Wednesday, Boeing officials said, they were told by SPEEA that the union’s negotiators weren’t available Thursday, Alder said.
In a message to members Thursday, Ray Goforth, SPEEA’s executive director, disputed that a meeting had been scheduled, calling Boeing’s assertion dishonest and disrespectful.
Goforth suggested that the company needs to hear again from SPEEA members.
Said Alder: “It’s going to take movement on both sides.”
Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org.