EVERETT — The Boeing Co. and its engineers union met Wednesday to try to avoid the company’s second work stoppage this year as its striking Machinists consider Boeing’s latest contract offer.
Discussions between the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace and Boeing were “reasonably productive,” wrote Ray Goforth, the union’s executive director, in a text message Wednesday morning. But “it is clear major differences exist on key issues,” union leaders said in an update Wednesday night.
Leaders for Boeing and the union moved into a SeaTac hotel to negotiate a new labor contract to present to the union’s 21,000 members by mid-November. Meanwhile, about 27,000 Boeing Machinists remain on strike as members prepare to vote Saturday on a new Boeing offer that has the support of union leadership. Boeing’s contract with SPEEA expires Dec. 1.
Initial discussions between Boeing and SPEEA included workforce issues including grievance handling, vacation schedules, sick leave and holidays. The two sides also preliminarily broached the topics of contractors and outsourcing.
“I can’t emphasize enough how critical these negotiations are to our employees, the company and our future,” wrote Doug Kight, Boeing’s negotiator, in a message to managers Wednesday.
The company’s talks with SPEEA became even more significant after its Machinists brought jet production to a halt 55 days ago. Negotiators for Boeing and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers agreed late Monday to a tentative four-year pact. Details of the proposed contract will be distributed Thursday to Machinists, who will vote on it Saturday. If Machinists ratify the contract, they could return to work as soon as the third shift Sunday. Machinists would have roughly one week to report back to their jobs at Boeing.
The Machinists rejected Boeing’s first offer over wage, pension, health care and outsourcing concerns.
Boeing faces similar issues as it navigates a contract with its engineers and technical workers. SPEEA’s Goforth told The Herald in an interview last week that his members believe Boeing showed them disrespect because of its use of outsourcing for its newest jet the 787 Dreamliner.
“My fear is that all the emotions are going to pour out if Boeing gives us a contract with any takeaways,” Goforth said last week.
The company was at least 15 months behind schedule on the 787 when the Machinists went on strike. Boeing leaned heavily on global partners for both design and production work on the fuel-efficient Dreamliner.
But Boeing’s Mike Denton, vice president of engineering, said the company likely will look to do things differently when it launches its next new jet. “We really think we need to own some part of major production,” Denton said last week.
Goforth suggested in a press release earlier this week that SPEEA may use Boeing’s global partners to push the company into compliance with the union’s demands.
“Boeing’s global supply network creates a thousand possible chokepoints that can be leveraged if these negotiations don’t result in a contract that honors the contributions of SPEEA members to Boeing’s success,” Goforth said.
A second strike would further delay the first flight and delivery of the 787, a plane that has roughly 900 orders. Boeing already reported a 38 percent drop in its third-quarter earnings, caused partially by the strike. An engineers strike also would disrupt the progress on other Boeing jets such as its 777 Freighter and 747-8.
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