SPEEA begins work-to-rules on 747-8

SPEEA, the Boeing engineers union, has begun a work-to-rules effort in Wichita (KS) on the 747-8 program intended to put pressure on the company as contract talks continue, we’ve learned. SPEEA also passed out 2,000 fliers at the wide-body plant at Everett (WA) Monday night preparing the engineers there for a work-to-rules program in support of Wichita if negotiations didn’t go well.

They aren’t: SPEEA issued the following press release moments ago:

Message to SPEEA-represented employees at Wichita Boeing

Boeing reaffirms disappointing wage and benefit offer – Employment seminars planned

The Boeing Company presented a disappointing and disrespectful offer to WEU negotiators today. The offer showed virtually no movement from previous wage and benefit offers the company talked about in November.

“This is very unfortunate,” said Ray Goforth, SPEEA executive director. “The company is showing a clear lack of commitment to the future of Wichita IDS.”

The wage offer was contradicted by data recently distributed by Boeing to employees. The data, contained in a CNN news report, said engineers should receive 4.5% raise increases. The link to the article was removed from the Boeing negotiations page today after SPEEA pointed out it contradicted what the company presented during negotiations. Read the CNN article: A 3% raise this year? That’s all folks

SPEEA research shows that despite the economic downturn, the job market remains intact for experienced aerospace engineers. Spirit AeroSystems, Airbus and even Cessna are hiring engineers. Given Boeing’s apparent lack of support for Wichita engineering, SPEEA will start providing seminars to help Boeing engineers find employment elsewhere in the aerospace industry. With many employees nearing retirement age, moving to another firm can have significant financial benefits for individuals.

(More after the jump.)

The last paragraph could be interpreted as a not-so-veiled threat to support SPEEA member desires to find a new job. Boeing (and Airbus) have been facing critical shortages of engineers for years, and any mass exodus won’t be helpful to Boeing as it struggles with the 747 and 787 programs.

The SPEEA notice to its members in Everett is designed to engage in a work-to-rules on the 787 program in particular. This would further slow this already massively-delayed program.

Work-to-rules involves declining all voluntary overtime and meticulously following all procedures to the point of aggravation.

The analogy we point to is when pilots engage in a work-to-rules with an airline. A real-life example is when an airplane is pushed back from the gate, pilots may decide the windshield needs cleaning, so the plane has to pull back to the gate to accomplish this task.

This labor dispute is the last thing Boeing needs right now. On the other hand, given the economy, one might wonder about the wisdom of SPEEA’s actions.

Update, January 15: Boeing late Wednesday presented its best and final offer to SPEEA.

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