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Boeing Machinists Back On Job... But Is Another Strike Around The Corner?

Next Up: SPEEA

Machinists returned to the assembly lines at Boeing Friday after four weeks on the picket line, but there may be little time for celebration as a potential showdown with engineers and technical workers now looms on the horizon.

Boeing reached a settlement Thursday on a three-year contract with the 18,400 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW.) Though forced to capitulate on several key issues, analysts say Boeing emerged from the strike much better than anticipated.

Approximately 25 to 30 deliveries need to be rescheduled due to delays caused by the month-long IAMAW strike, including deliveries to United Airlines and American Airlines. Maintenance work for those companies was also held back by the strike.

"Our customers are counting on us, so we'll be focused on returning to production and a steady stream of deliveries to our customers," said Boeing spokesman Chaz Bickers to the Associated Press.

However, contracts with the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) are due to expire in early December, meaning Boeing will once again face a potential battle over pensions and wages, the same issues that prompted the earlier walkout by the IAMAW. 
 
SPEEA represents 11,850 engineers and 5,700 technical workers in the Seattle area, and another 800 in Wichita, KS.

"It's exactly the same situation" as with the Machinists, said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst for the Teal Group. "The unions have a lot of power."

"Our hope is that the Boeing Co. has learned a valuable lesson from the Machinists," SPEEA spokesman Bill Dugovich said, "and that is -- put a good offer out there, meet the needs of the employees and move forward."

"This is a world-leading company, and they should be paying world-leading wages and benefits."

Initial proposals are still being exchanged in this year's negotiations with SPEEA, and it is hoped a strike will be averted long before the deadline expires. "It always comes down to competitiveness," said Bickers. "Reasonable proposals always have a place at the bargaining table."

SPEEA staged its first major strike against Boeing in February 2000, walking out after negotiations over a new contract stalled. To the mutual surprise of industry analysts and Boeing, that walkout lasted 40 days.

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

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