SPEEA, Boeing report progress

  • By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer
  • Friday, November 7, 2008 8:43pm
  • Business

EVERETT — Negotiators for the Boeing Co. and its engineers union made “some progress” in contract talks Friday.

“Our team is taking Boeing’s interests seriously and developing carefully thought out counter-proposals,” Ray Goforth, the union’s executive director, said in a statement Friday. “The process is genuine and time-consuming.”

Leaders for the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace presented counterproposals on several topics to Boeing during a two-hour session. The company handed over its first full contract offer to SPEEA on Thursday. The union had expressed disappointment over Boeing’s initial proposal, saying it didn’t address the union’s needs regarding wages, health care and outsourcing.

SPEEA and Boeing discussed the company’s health care and retirement plans on Friday as well as sick and vacation leave. The union plans to present counter-offers on compensation when it meets with Boeing today, said Bill Dugovich, SPEEA’s communications director. Dugovich was not certain whether SPEEA and Boeing would meet on Sunday.

The union and company confirmed Friday that they may extend the negotiations time frame. Originally, the two had targeted Tuesday, to finish talks. Boeing had wanted to present its final offer to SPEEA next week.

“We’ve always said we’ll stay as long as it takes to get a good contract,” Dugovich said.

The labor group negotiates contracts for about 20,500 engineers and technical workers. Those contracts with Boeing expire Dec. 1. SPEEA is Boeing’s second-largest union.

Boeing’s Machinists union staged a strike from Sept. 6 to Nov. 2, shutting down production on Boeing’s commercial jets in the region. The Machinists listed several concerns similar to SPEEA’s as reason for their strike: outsourcing, health care, pension and wages.

SPEEA leaders noted some progress Friday in talks with Boeing about outsourcing, health care and grievance leave. But the union emphasized two major remaining obstacles: the company’s proposed change in pension for new employees and its intent to exclude 100 Utah defense engineers from the Puget Sound region contract.

Boeing wants to offer new employees a 401(k)-type pension while the union wants to keep the traditional pension plan in place for all SPEEA members. The company presented a similar change in pension for new Machinists when bargaining with that union but dropped the proposal from its final offer.

SPEEA wants to keep a small division of Boeing engineers working in Utah in the bargaining unit that covers Washington, Oregon and California. Boeing filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the union over the matter earlier this year. The company seeks to negotiate a separate contract for those Utah workers.

“This is an attempt to fragment the professional unit into small employee groups,” SPEEA leaders wrote in an update Friday.

SPEEA last went on strike against Boeing in 2000 for 40 days. A strike by SPEEA, on the heels of the Machinists’ work stoppage, would further push back Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.

If substantive discussions between Boeing and SPEEA continue, the union could extend its contract from the Dec. 1 date and have its members continue working.

Boeing’s stock rose 86 cents Friday after two days of big drops and closed at $46.58.

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

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