By Alwyn Scott
NEW YORK Jan 31 Union leaders representing
about 23,000 Boeing Co engineers voted on Thursday to put
a strike authorization question on a ballot that will go to
members next week.
Strike authorization by members of the Society of
Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) does not
by itself declare a strike, but it would give union negotiating
teams power to call one at any time.
An engineers' strike could cripple production of all Boeing
airplanes and would complicate a wide-ranging review of the 787
Dreamliner by the Federal Aviation Administration. It also could
impede an investigation by the National Transportation Safety
Board into charred batteries on two 787s that prompted a
grounding of the entire 787 fleet last week.
Boeing has said it has other engineers it can draw on in the
event that its engineering workforce walks out.
The ballot to be mailed on Feb. 5 recommends members reject
the "best and final" contract that Boeing offered on Jan. 17.
The votes will be tallied on Feb. 19.
Boeing's offer extends the terms of the previous contract
for another four years and includes 5 percent annual pay raises
for professional and technical workers.
Boeing's offer also would enroll new employees in a defined
contribution retirement plan, a shift from the defined benefit
plan that current employees receive. The union objects to that
change, saying it would reduce benefits over the long term.
Boeing has said it is trying to reduce pension costs. In
fourth-quarter results released Wednesday, it said discretionary
cash pension contributions tripled to $1.6 billion in 2012 from
the year before, and are expected to be $1.5 billion in 2013.