Boeing presents best and final offer in SPEEA contract talks

It’s in: Boeing’s Best and Final.

Boeing concedes on medical, it says, but still wants pension relief for new employees. Says it will roll forward the current contract. The press release sounds like it pretty much accepts the SPEEA proposal, except for future employees’ pension costs.

The devil is in the details; we’ll see what SPEEA thinks after its review, but from the press release this looks encouraging.

Here is Boeing’s message to employees:

Today, Boeing gave SPEEA its best-and-final contract offer, agreeing to the union’s approach to extend the terms of the previous contract for current employees. With the exception of proposals explicitly agreed upon by both parties, the provisions of the current agreement will roll forward as they apply to current employees. This four year contract would allow all of us to focus our time and energy on the immediate challenges facing the company.

Under this offer, both Profs and Techs would see salary pools of 5 percent annually for the duration of the contract. The average Prof would see $84,071 in additional pay and performance-based incentive payments (EIP) over the life of the agreement. The average Tech would see $64,515 in additional pay and incentive payments.

Health care plans would remain in place with no increase in employee contributions.

For new hires only, we offer an enhanced retirement savings plan that would replace the traditional pension. Pensions for current SPEEA-represented employees are unchanged except for an increase in the pension basic benefit. Moving new hires to an enhanced retirement savings plan will provide future employees with a market-leading retirement plan — while allowing Boeing to better manage retirement plan expenses, reduce financial risk and invest in areas critical to the success of our business.

Over the past nine months, our team has negotiated in good faith to provide a market-leading offer to our employees.

We encourage you to visit the negotiations website where you’ll find updated fact sheets with all the details of this offer, as well as an updated Pay & Benefits Estimator that shows what it means to you.

SPEEA, Boeing talks go downhill

Talks didn’t exactly break off between Boeing and its engineers’ union, but by all appearances, it seems pretty close to doing so.

The two sides are to meet next week, but SPEEA put out this press release today:

The Boeing Company today presented a partially modified offer to our Prof and Tech Negotiation teams, but was unwilling to provide our team with a complete document.  The pieces provided indicate smaller wage and Ed Wells training program cuts than previously proposed.  Verbally, the company indicated that they still intend medical cost increases, elimination of the pension for future hires and reduction of growth in retirement benefits for the existing 23,000 engineers and technical workers. 

In a departure from long standing practice, Boeing refused to provide the offer electronically today, but indicated they will do so next week.  Working through federal mediators, the company said it needed four days to assemble all the pieces of its offer into a complete document.

While refusing to provide the complete offer to SPEEA, Boeing rejected our request that the parties work privately through the mediators rather than negotiating publicly.  The company indicated that they intend to try and bypass the negotiating team by “selling” the offer directly to members.  Boeing has already launched an aggressive public relations campaign claiming that Boeing corporate’s proposed cuts are actually “improvements.” Members are encouraged to watch the special 18-minute “Trust Me” video posted on the SPEEA website at www.speea.org.

“It was profoundly disappointing that Boeing corporate yet again gave us mere pieces of an offer and refused to provide it electronically” said Ryan Rule, Professional Team member.  “As members may recall, we found numerous take-a ways in the last company offer which they hadn’t bothered to flag as changes.  This incoherence in corporate contract configuration control is baffling.”

“It’s difficult to understand how Boeing corporate can legitimately claim that they need four days to print out their offer or put that same offer on a flash drive for our negotiating teams,” said Sandy Hastings, Technical Team member. “What are they trying to hide?”

While the major cuts and take a-ways are readily apparent, based on the number of items Boeing hid without mentioning in its first offers, our teams and SPEEA staff know they need to be able to review the company offer line-by-line in order to provide a comprehensive assessment to the membership.  The company’s inexplicable delay in providing their full offer prevents a comprehensive analysis.

Support for the SPEEA negotiations continues to grow.

Addressing the SPEEA Council Thursday, IFPTE President Greg Junemann said to remember that Boeing tried to push SPEEA members to accept cuts and take-a ways in 2000.

“Your negotiating teams’ focus is negotiating a contract that respects your contributions without going out on strike,” Junemann said. “But, the folks in Chicago need to hear this loud and clear: If they provoke a strike by SPEEA again, all of IFPTE, and a whole lot of the labor movement, is ready to show them again that engineers and technical workers deserve respect and their fair share of this company’s remarkable success.”

Negotiations are scheduled to resume at 1 p.m., Wednesday, January 16.

Prof and Tech Negotiation Team members encourage members to talk to co-workers, send comments to management and maintain workplace visibility with desk tents and activities. New video messages and a contract offer section are on the website.

Boeing issued this press release (caught up, for some reason, in our spam filter at first):

Today, Boeing presented a revised contract offer to SPEEA featuring increased salary pools for both engineers and technical employees.

Profs would see salary pools of 5 percent during the first two years of the contract and 4 percent in the last two years. Techs would see salary pools of 4 percent annually for the duration of the contract, with an additional lump sum payment equaling 1 percent of their salary in years one and two.

Under this revised offer, profs would average $85,600 in additional pay and performance-based incentive payments (EIP) over the life of the agreement. Techs would average $61,200 in additional pay and incentive payments.

Our proposals on health care (Washington, Oregon, California and Utah) and retirement remain unchanged from our pre-Thanksgiving offer.

Throughout these negotiations, our goal has remained the same — a market-leading contract that rewards employees while keeping the company and workforce competitive for future work. We’ve worked to resolve our differences with the SPEEA negotiations team, withdrawing many proposals that were important to the company. Since our initial offer back in September, we’ve shown considerable movement by increasing our salary proposal twice and revising our medical proposal to lower paycheck contributions. 

We encourage you to visit the negotiations website where you’ll find new fact sheets with all the details of the new offer, as well as an updated Pay & Benefits Estimator that shows what the offer means to you.

Boeing and SPEEA’s negotiations teams have agreed to continue discussions next Wednesday.

Boeing also held a teleconference. We missed the live but will dial into the replay when we can. We’ll also link any news stories we see for the Boeing side of the story.

SPEEA had expected to go for a strike vote next week, but without a formal offer, one can’t be held. Thus, any potential strike–which had a target date of Feb. 1–gets pushed to the right.

Federal 787 review adds new dimension to Boeing-SPEEA talks

The formal Federal Aviation Administration review adds a new dimension to the stalled contract talks between Boeing and its engineers’ union, SPEEA.

Talks Thursday didn’t go well, with SPEEA issuing a short press release laste yesterday afternoon:

SPEEA negotiations with The Boeing Company continued Thursday with little progress on key issues.

Our teams reminded Boeing that with record profits, a completely funded pension, 4,200 airplanes on backorder and $20 billion of cash on hand, it doesn’t make sense to cut wage growth, cut pension growth, eliminate the pension for future hires and raise medical costs for everyone.

Signifying the importance of our efforts to secure a respectful contract with Boeing, IFPTE President Greg Junemann, visited the teams at the hotel and then attended today’s SPEEA Council meeting to reiterate the support of our international union.

Negotiations are scheduled to resume at 9 a.m., Friday.

Boeing’s press release was even more terse:

For the second day in a row, negotiations teams from Boeing and SPEEA held contract talks with the assistance of federal mediators.

The mediators adjourned the meeting late this afternoon. Talks will continue Friday morning.

Boeing will have to rely on its engineers to sort through the review of the electrical system, which has now had four or five glitches, including the well-publicized fire in Boston on a Japan Air Lines 787.

With contract talks going nowhere fast, the prospects of a total breakdown in talks appears more and more likely, perhaps as soon as today. If this happens, look for a strike voted early next week. A walk-out could occur in early February.

If a strike happens, work by SPEEA engines on any 787 system review will stop or at the very least slow to a crawl. Boeing will have to rely on out-sourced engineers, if this is feasible. Engineers at the subcontractors responsible for the systems obviously would continue work, but at best the system review will be complicated by a SPEEA strike.

Clearly, the latest 787 problems add headaches to the contract talks that aren’t needed.

SPEEA-Boeing talks resume today; grim outlook

Flashback to 2000 strike: KPLU takes a look.

The war of words resumed yesterday in advance of contract talks that restart today at 1pm PT in Seattle between Boeing and its engineers’ union, SPEEA.

Even before parties reconvened, SPEEA yesterday issued a press statement outlining demonstrations to take place today:

Wednesday’s ‘Day of Action’ events are expected to draw from dozens at small sites to hundreds and thousands of SPEEA members walking inside and outside Boeing facilities in Renton and Everett. Boeing has drawn three Unfair Labor Practice Charges (ULPs) for videotaping and photographing union members at the events, confiscating cameras and the photographs they held. All of the marches have been peaceful. The ULPs are awaiting action before the National Labor Relations Board.

Both sides want an agreement without a strike, but SPEEA has been vocal for weeks, predicting talks will break down almost immediately because—in its view—the two sides are too far apart.

Boeing has a different view. The company notes that SPEEA at one point offered to extend its current contract, which Boeing rejected in part because health care and pension costs would remain unchanged. But the company points out that the current contract includes a 5% annual raise while Boeing’s current offer is 4.5%–just one-half of one percent apart. SPEEA has asked for 6% in the current negotiations.

Where the real differences appear to be are over those pesky health care and pension costs. SPEEA asserts that Boeing is asking for too much in the way of co-pays and other medical costs and that by changing the retirement plan from a defined benefit program to a define contribution to a 401(k), any raises offered by Boeing are negated and in effect result in losing money.

Boeing takes issue with this, saying that over the life of its contract offer, SPEEA engineers will receive $17,000 in raises and spend $5,000 in added medical costs.

As for the retirement plan, Boeing says the proposal for switching to a defined contribution to a 401(k) will be for new-hires only. Non-union employees throughout the company are on a 401(k) plan.

We view the current situation as grim. We think Boeing Chicago is misunderstanding the mood of SPEEA members, just as it did in the contract vote in October and as it did with IAM 751 in 2008.

But as we’ve written before, as one who pays 100% of our medical and retirement costs, we have little sympathy for Boeing wanting SPEEA members to pony up a greater share of health care costs. We also believe that defined benefit plans have unrealistic federal ROI assumptions that place an undue burden on companies. Update: we certainly muddled this statement. We’ve previously written that we have little sympathy for SPEEA not wanting to pony up more of its own health care costs, and this is our position.

At the same time, we recognize that SPEEA–along with the IAM–saved Boeing’s bacon during the debacles of the 787 and 747-8 development, and it’s also clear that neither program is running smoothly just yet.

We also believe that profit sharing, such as that proposed by Boeing, is a good employee incentive. But we also believe that Boeing Chicago tends to trend toward being too anti-union for its own good.

We don’t think there will be a quick resolution as talks resume today. SPEEA is planning job actions and it is making plans to shut down deliveries as soon as a strike occurs. The 42-day SPEEA strike in 2000 saw 50 fewer deliveries at a time when production rates were far less than today.

We hope cooler heads prevail, but we’re not counting on it.