Boeing engineers union likely to back mediation talks

Fri Nov 30, 2012 11:34am EST

A Boeing 787 sits on the assembly line at the company's operations in Everett, Washington, October 18, 2012. REUTERS/Andy Clark

A Boeing 787 sits on the assembly line at the company's operations in Everett, Washington, October 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Andy Clark

(Reuters) - The union that represents Boeing Co engineers is likely to agree to mediated talks in a bid to resolve the standoff with the planemaker, the executive director of the union said on Friday.

On Thursday, Boeing asked for U.S. mediators to help resolve talks with the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) union, which represents its 23,000 engineers, saying the sides were far apart on pay and benefits.

That move halted labor discussions around midday on Thursday in Seattle, and no further meetings were scheduled, the two sides said. Union contracts with Boeing expired on Sunday.

"We will almost certainly agree to some type of mediation, but we find the company's position confusing," Ray Goforth, SPEEA executive director, said in an email to Reuters.

Goforth said Chicago-based Boeing had not responded to many union proposals and that a lot work was left to do.

"We view this action on their part as a stunt to distract people from the proposed pay and benefit cuts," Goforth added.

The union has balked at a Boeing contract that it says would cut the growth rate of compensation of professional and technical employees. Boeing says its latest offer is much improved over its initial proposal and reflects a tough competitive environment.

The breakdown in talks comes as Boeing looks to speed up jet production from 52 a month to about 60 a month by the end of next year. A walkout by the union could stop production.

Peter Arment, an analyst with Sterne, Agee & Leach, expressed hope that the dispute would be resolved with mediation. He noted strikes by SPEEA were rare, with the last one occurring in 2000.

"There's still time for this to be resolved long before it would affect Boeing's commercial aircraft production," Arment said.

Shares of Boeing edged down 3 cents to $74.09 in Friday trading.

(Reporting by Alwyn Scott in New York and Karen Jacobs in Atlanta; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Leslie Gevirtz)

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Comments (3)
susette wrote:
I don’t see anywhere that the union is asking for further resedarch and safety apportionment. That is where older planes falter: maintaining olderplanes with older parts equals disaster. And sadly, corporate management believes cutting pay equals higher profits, but further induces recession.

Nov 30, 2012 10:11am EST  --  Report as abuse
totherepublic wrote:
The pay and benfit package of these people should be of public record so those of us that are just humble loborers could have a more informned opion of these spoiled brats.

Nov 30, 2012 11:41am EST  --  Report as abuse
MeritMan wrote:
Unions are the wave of the past. Early industrial America benefited from the tough bargaining unions did on behalf of the workers. They created the 8-hour work day, 5-day work week, standardized wages and lots of safety laws. Having achieved all of this, union remain today for the purposes of maintaining power for the American Democrat Party. Without unions, the Democrats would be forced to (gasp) try to understand the American economy and work towards strengthening businesses rather than hollowing them out. Boeing is a great example. When the company tried to create NEW jobs for a new product line in a right-to-work state, Obama’s National Labor Relations Board attempted to stop them. Why? Because Boeing was attempting to partially divest of the unions that had went on strike numerous times in the previous decade, killing company profits and putting its new products behind schedule. If that’s what unions are about today, we don’t need them. And we don’t need a Democrat Party that is propped up by unions.

Nov 30, 2012 12:37pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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