Jan. 14, 2016: (c) Leeham Co. Blessing a new process in contract negotiations made an agreement possible between Boeing and its engineers’ union, SPEEA, its executive director told LNC in an interview after the surprise deal was announced yesterday.
“This process would not have happened if Muilenburg hadn’t blessed it,” said Ray Goforth, executive director of SPEEA. “This process would not have happened without Muilenburg.”
The secret negotiations, setting aside areas of dispute that had no hope of agreement and moving forward on issues of mutual interest that could be concluded, led to a surprise tentative six year contract months ahead of scheduled negotiations and nine months ahead of the contract’s amendable date.
Goforth told LNC that Boeing and SPEEA officials weren’t looking forward to another round of contentious, bitter contract negotiations that characterized talks four years ago. The contract covers engineers and technicians, and one group rejected the contract on the first vote but approved a slightly revised contract in a second vote.
“We both had a vision of what negotiations would look like and neither side wanted that,” said Goforth, referring to the talks four years ago. He said Boeing and SPEEA agreed to set aside issues they knew they wouldn’t agree on and which would have to be settled by a “judge, the Legislature and government regulators” such as the National Labor Relations Board.
Goforth said no complaints by the union against Boeing were withdrawn. Judicial and NLRB complaints will be pursued and the effort by SPEEA and the International Association of Machinists District 751 with the state Legislature on job clawbacks over the 2013 777X tax breaks will continue.
Agreements were reached on wages, which both sides characterized as above market value, and middle-ground accord was achieved on the controversial issues of pensions and co-funding health care benefits.
Goforth declined to comment directly on the contract between these negotiations and past ones, when Jim McNerney was CEO of Boeing. Muilenburg succeeded McNerney last summer. McNerney remained as non-executive chairman and is scheduled to leave the company’s employ next month. His continued presence on the Board of Directors after then hasn’t been clarified.
But Goforth did say “the tone of discussions and candor was a vast improvement of the last negotiations. It wasn’t easy, and it almost broke down at a couple of points,” but both sides came together to reach this tentative contract.