Raises would be lowest in 20 years, SPEEA says

An initial contract offer made by the Boeing Co. to engineers and technical workers Thursday includes the lowest wage increases in 20 years, said leaders for the union representing the 22,765 Puget Sound area workers who would be covered by the contract.

Negotiators for the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace were to meet Friday to discuss the aerospace company’s offer. SPEEA’s contract expires Oct. 6.

The proposal calls for yearly payroll increases of about 3.5 percent for engineers, slightly less for technical workers. The present contract had 5 percent pay growth. SPEEA had proposed 7.5 percent.

Boeing expects the two sides to “exchange offers and counteroffers as we work toward concluding contract negotiations over the next week,” company officials said in a message to workers.

SPEEA leaders can decide to continue contract talks with Boeing or allow members to vote on the company’s first offer. The union’s bylaws require a two-week period for members to consider the offer and to vote. If the union votes down Boeing’s contract, it won’t go out on strike without approval from members.

Boeing previously had revealed pieces of the company’s offer, including proposals on pension and health care. The Thursday offer, however, included information on wage increases for both engineers and technical workers, who have separate contracts. The SPEEA-represented engineers and technical workers are responsible for designing and testing Boeing aircraft.

Wages

Under the company’s proposal, Boeing would continue a “wage pool” for engineers, but it would grow at rates lower than what are in today’s contract. The proposed pool would increase 3.5 percent each of four years.

In the new wage pool, some engineers would receive an annual increase of more than 3.5 percent while others receive less, although Boeing proposes a minimum raise of 1 percent.

Boeing also offered to continue the wage pool for technical workers, which would increase by 3 percent the first year and by 2.5 percent in the second, third and fourth years of the contract.

The present contract has provisions for wage-pool increases of 5 percent in each of four years and a guaranteed minimum raise of 2 percent for engineers and 2.5 percent for technical workers. SPEEA had proposed a 7.5 percent annual wage-pool increase for the new contract.

SPEEA members would continue to participate in Boeing’s Employee Incentive Plan, which rewards workers based on company performance. For 2011, workers in the plan received bonuses ranging from 15 to 16 days of pay, the company announced in January.

Health care

Both engineers and technical workers would pay more toward health care beginning Jan. 1, 2014. The average SPEEA-represented employee currently pays $2,000 toward health care, according to Boeing. That would increase to $4,100 in 2016, the company said.

Retirement

Boeing said its offer includes a 9.6 percent increase in the minimum monthly pension amount for each year of service. During the contract, current SPEEA members’ pensions would increase from $83 to $91 per month for each year of service.

The company’s plan, however, creates a separate retirement plan for employees hired after Jan. 1, 2013. During earlier talks, SPEEA leaders dismissed the notion of dropping the defined pension plan for new employees.

Other items

The company said it did not change other benefits, such as vacation, sick leave and the number of holidays. The union had lobbied for increased benefits.

Mike Delaney, vice president of engineering for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, told members in a message Thursday that the company’s objective is to offer a proposal that “is market leading, justly rewards our engineering team for their exceptional work and balances the need to keep the engineering team and Boeing competitive for the long term.”

Over the course of negotiations, SPEEA leaders have pointed to the company’s increased profits and dividends, as well as double-digit percentage raises to executives, as reasons their members deserve a good contract.

Boeing is ramping up aircraft production and has several development programs, including the 787-9, the 737 MAX and the 767-based tanker, which the company’s engineering and technical employes are working on.

For more information about Boeing’s offer, visit the company’s negotiations website at www.boeing.com/speea-negotiations or the union’s website at www.speea.org.

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

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