By Bryan Corliss
For most workers, the offer would give them one week’s pay for each year of service, up to a maximum of 26 weeks. Boeing would also continue paying health insurance benefits for most of the laid-off workers for three months. (The exception to this: Machinists Union members will get six months of extended health benefits under the terms of an agreement negotiated in 2016.)
Workers have until May 4 — one week — to decide whether they’re going to apply for the buyouts. In a message sent to its members, SPEEA, the engineers’ union, said Boeing management will decide who gets to take them, and warned its members they might be required to train their replacements before leaving.
Union sources said Monday it wasn’t clear how many people Boeing is looking to cut from its payroll. However, the Machinists said that Boeing wants to eliminate jobs in 140 job codes in what would be a sweeping restructuring.
Workers who get the buyout packages would be notified in mid-May, and leave the company in June, a Machinists spokeswoman said.
The announcement was likely to be seen as good news for many of the older members of the Boeing workforce, who’ve been looking for the buy outs as a way out of their current Covid-19 conundrum: go back to work and risk infecting themselves and their families, or stay home and risk financial hardship.
About a quarter of Boeing’s unionized workforce – both engineers and mechanics – are older than 55. For them, the buyouts “may be a positive opportunity for those who are ready to retire to utilize additional benefits that were not otherwise available to them,” Machinists Union district leaders in Seattle told their members. Boeing under ex-CEO Jim McNerney froze defined-benefit pensions for all workers, however, most of the workers who’d be taking these buyouts still would have modest pension benefits coming that they accrued prior to the freezes. And since they’re being laid off, the workers might qualify for unemployment compensation from the state of Washington, the Machinists told their members Monday night.
The news from Boeing comes as at least a half-dozen aerospace suppliers and aviation companies across Washington state announced both temporary and permanent job cuts over the past month.
The list of companies includes: