SPEEA union members are quietly gearing up for a “work-to-the-rules” approach that could amount to a work slowdown as voting begins on a contract offer by the company.
SPEEA’s negotiating team recommends a “no” vote on the contract.
“Work-to-the-rules” is a common labor tactic when union members want to make a point to the company before resorting to the draconian step of a strike. The tactic is common in the airline industry.
Labor contracts and corporate policies usually lay out precise work rules and methods of doing tasks. In practice, however, labor often finds more efficient procedures and short-cuts that may not follow the letter of the contract or policy. Tossing these overboard and working to the rules usually winds up slowing productivity.
In this case, it’s unclear how widespread the action may be–it could only be pockets of workers at this point but it certainly could spread throughout the workforce if negotiations continue to be difficult.
Update, 430 PM PDT: Boeing issued this statement to SPEEA members:
Boeing’s response to SPEEA contract vote
As you know, last week Boeing passed its initial contract proposal to the SPEEA negotiating team. In an unprecedented departure from the normal negotiating process, the SPEEA negotiating team, without any discussion or clarification, elected to put the proposal directly to a vote by its members.
Our proposal provides both market-leading retirement and medical benefits, and competitive wage increases all four years of the contract. However, the SPEEA negotiating committee’s decision to abandon the negotiation process has denied us the opportunity to come to a mutual understanding about our proposal.
There should be no question about the respect we have for our engineering and technical workforce. We’ve made proposals supported by facts and data relevant to our employees and our business. We have respected the role of the SPEEA negotiating team and have taken the process seriously. We’re all on the same team designing, developing and producing airplanes, and it appears to us that some have repeatedly tried to provoke an emotional response by creating a perception of mistrust and disrespect. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
SPEEA’s proposal summary misrepresents components of our proposal and we sincerely hope this reflects a misunderstanding or a miscommunication rather than a deliberate distortion. We expressed our willingness to meet throughout this week with SPEEA’s negotiating team in order to hear the union’s response, answer questions and discuss any counterproposals – especially since we have time left before contract expiration. The SPEEA negotiations team, for their own reasons, made a decision to cease negotiations and use this unconventional approach.
We will continue to share and clarify with you details of our proposal in the days ahead in order to clear up any confusion created by the absence of meaningful discussion. We will send updates and also encourage you to visit the Boeing negotiations website regularly to check for updates and clarification about our proposal.
Julie-Ellen Acosta, vice president, Human Resources, Commercial Airplanes
Conrad Ball, Functional Engineering director, Boeing Military Aircraft
Mark Burgess, chief engineer, Engineering, Operations & Technology
Mike Delaney, vice president, Engineering, Commercial Airplanes
Gene Woloshyn, vice president, Employee Relations, Boeing
Todd Zarfos, vice president, Engineering – Commercial Aviation Services, senior chief engineer of Support
SPEEA issued this press release:
SPEEA wants to protect members on military leave from Boeing cuts
SEATTLE – At a time when the United States is engaged in the longest running conflict in its history, The Boeing Company wants to eliminate the ability of engineers and technical workers on military leave to buy important disability and life insurance coverage at the company’s discounted rates.
The action is tucked inside Boeing’s contract offers to 23,000 engineers and technical workers represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001. SPEEA’s Professional and Technical Unit Negotiation Teams, along with their governing bargaining unit councils recommend members reject the offers. Ballots go out later this week. Contracts expire Oct. 6.
“This is a cut that is offensive beyond measure,” said Ray Goforth, SPEEA executive director. “Allowing military personnel to buy insurance at discount rates costs Boeing nothing. As a union, we cannot allow these cuts to stand.”
Boeing made no mention during negotiations of benefits for employees on Military Leave of Absence. The company’s offer deletes an entire document that covers a wide variety of medical, insurance and other benefits. Boeing wants to use Summary Plan Descriptions (SPD) to address the benefits and items. After close examination, SPEEA discovered the SPDs remove the ability for individuals on military leave to buy and/or extend their Boeing long-term disability or basic life insurance after three months. Technically outside the legally binding contract, SPDs can be changed at any time by the company without informing the union.
“Eliminating the ability of our war fighters to buy these products is just one more example of the gratuitous take-a-ways Boeing has put in these contract offers,” Goforth said. “I am shocked by the degree of corporate arrogance that prompts Boeing to start cutting the benefits of individuals serving our country.”
At a time when the company is soaring with record profits, Goforth said corporate leaders are engaging in a wholesale grab of everything they can get from engineers and technical workers.
The union vote is a straight “Reject” or “Accept” of the Boeing contract offers. Union officials said a strong rejection should make it clear to Boeing that it must stop attacking engineers and technical workers and return to negotiations ready to negotiate.
While the majority of covered employees are in the Puget Sound region of Washington state, these SPEEA Professional and Technical contracts also cover employees in Oregon, Utah and California.
A local of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), SPEEA represents 26,560 aerospace professionals at Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas, and Triumph Composite Systems, Inc. in Spokane, Wash.