SPEEA counters Boeing wage offer

The union representing Boeing Co. engineers and technical workers showed signs of compromise in a meeting with the jet maker the afternoon before Thanksgiving.

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace countered a Boeing wage proposal, asking for 6 percent annual raises for its 22,765 Puget Sound area members over the next three years. That’s down from the 7.5 percent the union had requested during negotiations this summer.

Boeing had offered wage increases of 3 percent to 4.5 percent annually over four years during a negotiating session Tuesday. Last month, SPEEA members strongly rejected the company’s first contract offer, which included raises of 2 percent to 3.5 percent.

“Obviously, we still have some work to do when it comes to salary,” said Doug Alder, a Boeing spokesman, after the Wednesday meeting.

The company and union agreed to meet again Tuesday.

Disappointed with contract talks over the past seven weeks, SPEEA leaders have encouraged members to shun voluntary overtime and to stick to work procedures, skipping more efficient shortcuts. In a message Wednesday, SPEEA negotiators noted that all overtime over the Thanksgiving weekend is voluntary. The union’s effort ultimately could slow jet deliveries at a time when Boeing is increasing aircraft production.

Boeing and SPEEA remain at odds over the company’s retirement plan. Boeing wants to put new employees on a 401(k) plan rather than the pension plan SPEEA members have today. The two also don’t agree on how much of the burden of health-care costs should be shared by SPEEA members.

Ray Goforth, SPEEA’s executive director, suggested Tuesday that SPEEA members likely will be asked soon to give negotiators the authority to call a strike, in an effort to put more pressure on Boeing. However, the union has said a strike will not take place until after the new year, if at all.

Although SPEEA’s contract has expired, federal labor law ensures the bulk of the measures remain in place for up to a year. The union filed a termination notice, as required by law, for Nov. 25 to give the engineers and technical workers the right to strike. That also gives Boeing the right to lock workers out as of Nov. 26.

But don’t expect a lockout come Monday.

“As long as we’re negotiating, everything will continue as normal,” Alder said.

Herald reporter Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454 or mdunlop@heraldnet.com.

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