Nov 21 Engineers at Boeing Co inched
closer to a strike on Wednesday after the union balked at the
U.S. aircraft manufacturer's latest offer on two contracts that
The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in
Aerospace(SPEEA)said the new offer still represents a cut in
salary and other benefits for the 23,000 members of its two
bargaining units, professional and technical workers.
"We're closer to calling a strike authorization," SPEEA
executive director Ray Goforth said. "We don't have a date or
plans" to call a vote, he added.
Boeing said the offer is much improved over its opening
proposal, and reflects the tough competition with rival Airbus
and the needs of price-sensitive airlines.
"It's going to take movement from both sides" to get a deal,
said Doug Alder, a Boeing spokesman. "And we made a big move."
The union's current contracts expired on Oct. 6 and a 60-day
extension runs out Sunday, canceling the no-strike clause that
had prevented the union from staging a walkout.
However, the two sides met on Wednesday in Seattle, where
most of SPEEA's members are based, and plan to meet again next
"As long as we're continuing to negotiate, work goes on as
normal," Alder said.
While a strike was now possible, he noted that the union has
not taken a strike-authorization vote.
PACE OF JET PRODUCTION AT STAKE
Boeing churns out 52 jets a month, worth nearly $8 billion
at list prices, and is stepping up its pace of production to
work through a backlog of more than 4,000 orders.
The professional engineers and technical workers could stop
production if they walked out.
The standoff has the potential to affect jet production even
if the union doesn't call a strike, as engineers could work more
slowly and limit their hours, something the union already is
asking them to do.
"It is becoming clear Boeing corporate will need additional
persuasion" to reach a deal, Bill Dugovich, SPEEA communications
director, said in a statement. "Our teams encourage members to
continue workplace actions, including refusing to work voluntary
overtime and other 'work-to-rule' actions to bring pressure on
Goforth said members were "conducting work-to-rule
activities" in Oregon and Washington, and declining overtime
during the Thanksgiving holiday. Alder said Boeing had not seen
any impact so far.
After Wednesday's meeting, SPEEA said Boeing had restated
its plan to eliminate its defined-benefit pension for new hires.
The engineers argue that Boeing has rewarded executives with
hefty pay raises and shareholders with a 4.8 percent dividend
increase. The company is reporting strong profits and yet is
offering engineers less than when the last contract was struck
Shares of Boeing, among the 30 companies in the Dow Jones
industrial average, rose 0.8 percent on Wednesday to
close at $73.15.
Boeing says its pay and benefit offers are industry leading
at a time of high unemployment when many workers are getting
modest raises and paying much more of their health-care costs.
The situation puts both sides under pressure. The union
knows it is strategic to Boeing.
"They also know they have to deliver at the bargaining
table," said Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations
at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
"Boeing has an embarrassment of riches," he added. But the
company "has to maintain its reputation of being a tough
negotiator to get what it wants."
Boeing's new offer of four-year contracts would give
professional engineers annual pay raises of 4.5 percent in the
first and third years, and 4 percent in each of the other two
years. That's up from 3.5 percent per year in the company's
Technical workers, whose work provides a crucial bridge
between that of engineers and machinists, would get a 3.5
percent raise in each of the first and third years and a 3
percent raise in each of the other two years. That's up from 3
percent in the first year and 2.5 percent a year in the proposed
contract's other three years in the company's previous offer.
Boeing said it also lowered employees' out-of-pocket
contribution for health care and eliminated hospital copays,
among other steps, in response to the union's rejection of its
first offer. Members voted it down by a margin of about 96
The negotiations are set to resume on Tuesday.