Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer
The Boeing Co. and the union representing its engineers and technical workers agreed Wednesday to a federal mediator’s request to postpone negotiations until after the new year.
The decision to halt negotiations comes as talks between Boeing and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace have reached a standstill.
In the interim, mediators will be in contact with Boeing and the union “to schedule resumption of negotiations,” George H. Cohen, director for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, said in a statement released Wednesday evening.
Federal mediators attended negotiating sessions between Boeing and SPEEA in Seattle on Tuesday and Wednesday. However, they were asked to serve only in a limited role and not lead the discussions.
Boeing requested the mediation service’s help last Thursday after another frustrating session for both parties. On Friday, the two couldn’t even agree where the talks with mediators should take place.
SPEEA represents 22,765 Boeing engineers and technical workers in the Puget Sound region. Its members play a role in Boeing aircraft from concept to delivery, designing and testing jets.
The talks coincide with a production ramp up across Boeing’s jet programs. The company also has significant design projects in the works including the 787-9, the 737 MAX and the 767-based Air Force tanker.
Although Boeing and SPEEA began formal negotiations in April, the two remain at odds on major elements like wages, pension and medical benefits. In October, 15,097 SPEEA members voted to reject Boeing’s first offer, while only 608 members voted to accept it. Since then, the two sides on the key issues.
SPEEA leaders previously suggested that they soon could ask members to give them the OK to call a strike after the first of the year if talks didn’t improve.
The union’s only major strike of 40 days occurred in 2000.