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Tue, Dec 02, 2008

SPEEA Engineers, Technical Workers Ratify Boeing Contracts

Four-Year Deals Approved By Largest Turnout In Recent History

Following many months of labor strife, tense negotiations and strikes both threatened and realized, Boeing appears to be nearing the end of its latest bruising round of contract negotiations with its unions. On Monday, engineering and technical employees represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) IFPTE Local 2001 ratified four-year collective bargaining agreements covering nearly 21,000 Boeing employees in Washington, Oregon, California and Utah.

SPEEA announced the result Tuesday following a vote-by-mail process. Boeing and SPEEA leaders agreed November 14 on the terms of the contracts. The first covers 14,000 engineers in the SPEEA Professional Bargaining Unit. The second contract covers 7,000 technical workers in the union's Technical Bargaining Unit. The contracts go into effect December 2, 2008, and expire October 6, 2012.

"These contracts reward our employees for the valuable contributions they make to Boeing's success," said Doug Kight, Boeing vice president of Human Resources. "These agreements also enable us to remain competitive and position Boeing to continue to win new business during these challenging economic times."

SPEEA notes the vote turnout was one of the largest ballot returns in union history. Votes were counted Monday at union headquarters in Seattle.

The final tally in the mail-in vote showed 69 percent of the voting employees in the SPEEA Technical Unit approved their contract offer with 3,429 voting to accept and 1,554 voting to reject. In the separate Professional Unit, 79 percent approved the offers with 7,184 voting to accept the offer and 1,951 voting to reject. Union negotiation teams recommended members approve the offers.

Nearly 74 percent of the eligible members voted on the contracts. In 2005, just 65 percent of the members voted.

"Passage of these contracts represents a first step in restoring the relationship between Boeing management and its engineering and technical workforce," said SPEEA Executive Director and Chief Spokesperson Ray Goforth. "We have a lot of work to breathe life into the text of these agreements and we still need to finish negotiations in Wichita."

Goforth refers to negotiations for 700 engineers at Boeing Wichita, which are scheduled to resume Tuesday. The Wichita contract was extended to allow for negotiations beyond the original December 5 expiration.

The new contracts provide employees wage increases, benefit improvements, a voice in future decisions on outsourcing and a process to take a voluntary layoff with benefits. The union spent more than eight months negotiating the offers with Boeing. Final main table negotiations started October 29.

Specifically, the contracts approved Monday provide salary increase pools of 5 percent in each year of the contract. Engineers in the Professional unit are guaranteed an increase of at least 2 percent each year and Technical workers are guaranteed increases of at least 2.5 percent during each year of the contract.

In addition to the wage increases, the union says improvements were gained to medical coverage, retirement and the company agreed to maintain the defined benefit pension for new employees. SPEEA also stopped Boeing from cutting engineers in Utah from the Professional contract. 

While recommended, passage was not guaranteed. During more than 100 workplace meetings, union negotiators heard members talk about the continued lack of respect from management and concerns about a lack of confidence in Boeing corporate leaders.

"These were the toughest negotiations I've been involved with," said Professional Negotiation Team chair and three-time negotiator Dave Patzwald.

Union leaders said members voiced concerns about management misdirection and lack of respect for employees for months. The comments grew out of frustration over corporate decisions that are causing continued delays to the 787 and 747-8, fastener problems on multiple aircraft and a continued push to hire more contract labor while pushing existing employees to work more and more overtime.

FMI: www.boeing.com, www.speea.org

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