By Bryan Corliss
April 29, 2020 © Leeham News — Unionized technical workers who initially rejected a proposed contract extension with Boeing have changed their minds.
The deal extends the techs’ contract with Boeing until October 2026, putting them in sync with unionized engineers at the company, who had approved a companion contract offer in March.
SPEEA represents some 4,700 techs at Boeing – mostly in Puget Sound, but also in California, Oregon and Utah – along with nearly 13,000 engineers.
The techs had initially rejected their contract offer with a 57% “no” vote on March 10. But shortly after, the union agreed to hold a new vote on the proposal after errors were discovered in documents that union staff had prepared, summarizing Boeing’s offer.
Notably, the documents had left out a guaranteed 2% wage increase for this year.
The new contracts do away with Boeing’s previous formula for calculating pay for the engineers and techs represented by SPEEA. In 2016, both groups had approved a contract that aimed to keep pay for workers at 15% above the national average for workers doing similar work. The contract specified a specific report from a specific human resources consulting firm that was to be used to calculate the wage increases annually.
In January – on CEO Dave Calhoun’s first day on the job – SPEEA leadership accused Boeing Commercial Airplanes leadership of substituting figures from another report in an effort to hold down the wage increases. The union threatened to sue, which lead to talks that resulted in the contract extensions.
Instead of making pay relative to industry averages, the new deals for engineers and techs spell out guaranteed annual pay increases and lump-sum payouts, plus specified percentages to be put into a pool for performance bonuses.
In addition to resolving the pay dispute, the contract extension also grants SPEEA-represented workers the right to participate in a Washington state program granting 12 to 16 weeks of paid leave to take care of sick family members – which is a more-important perk now, given the Covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic complicated the process of conducting the new vote: Union offices have been closed since March.
The news comes as Calhoun is expected to discuss production cuts and layoffs at the company’s commercial airplanes plants during the earnings call today.
SPEEA said Tuesday that 14,000 of its members at Boeing are in jobs that are eligible for the company’s voluntary layoff program. Like the Machinists, SPEEA members have until Monday, May 4, to decide whether to apply for the buyout; the company then will decide who and how many it will take.
They would leave the payroll in June with a lump-sum payout equal to one week’s pay for every year of service, up to a maximum of 26 weeks. Boeing also would continue to cover their medical insurance costs for three months.