Boeing workers delay production over Covid-19 fears

By Bryan Corliss

March 20, 2020, © Leeham News: Sources close to Boeing tell Leeham News & Analysis that Machinists Union members in Puget Sound have shut down production on several occasions this week over fears that the corona virus had made their work stations unsafe.

According to two insiders, workers at sites across Puget Sound are invoking Article 16 of the IAM’s contract with Boeing, which is commonly known as the “Imminent Danger Clause.” It gives workers the ability to shut down work in their area if they have a reasonable concern that they’re working under conditions likely to cause death or serious injury.

Boeing management has been responsive, the insiders said, quickly bringing in environmental health and safety experts to perform assessments and order extensive cleaning in areas where potentially infected people may have worked.

But it’s reasonable to assume that these temporary shutdowns for cleaning will lead to further delays in production, and that they will increase in frequency as the pandemic spreads – particularly after the union sent a reminder to its stewards about the safety language in their contract.

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Engineers OK Boeing contract extension; techs say no

By Bryan Corliss

March 11, 2020 © Leeham News – New Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun earned a split decision in his first major labor relations test Monday, as unionized engineers with the company’s Commercial Airplanes division narrowly approved a contract extension. A second unit, for technical workers, rejected a similar proposal.

The news came as Boeing announced the first case of COVID-19 among its 70,000-member Puget Sound workforce: an unidentified employee at the company’s Everett plant.

The proposal for engineers belonging to SPEEA (the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace) was approved with a 51.2% yes vote, the union reported shortly before midnight (Pacific Time). Technical workers, however, rejected a similar deal with 56.7% “no” vote.

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Boeing engineers voting on surprise contract extension

By Bryan Corliss
Feb. 25, 2020 © Leeham News — Unionized engineers and technical workers at Boeing begin voting this week on unexpected new contract proposals from the company that address two major areas of worker complaints LNA reported on last month: annual raises and paid family leave.

The proposals, which would extend the current contract by four years, came after SPEEA (the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace) threatened to take Boeing to court over what it claimed were deliberate attempts by company management to hold down raises that engineers and tech were entitled to under the current contract.

Those threats led to talks between SPEEA’s executive board and Boeing managers, resulting in the proposed contract extensions. 

SPEEA’s seven-member executive board negotiated the extensions and is urging a “yes” vote. However, the union’s larger Bargaining Unit Councils (one each for both the engineers and techs, with a combined total of close to 100 representatives) did not go along with the endorsements.

There are two separate but related offers, one for engineers and one for technical workers. Voting is by mail. Ballots will be counted on March 9. About 18,000 Boeing workers are involved, most in Washington, but also in California, Oregon and Utah.

Summary

  • Union confronted Calhoun over pay on Day One
  • Proposal locks in annual wage increases
  • SPEEA gets family leave this year

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Calhoun faces first test on labor issues

By Bryan Corliss
Jan. 29, 2020 © Leeham News —
Two weeks into the job, and new Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun is already facing his first labor-management showdown, with SPEEA, the union for engineers and technical workers at the company’s Puget Sound plants.

On Monday, the vice president of engineering functions for Boeing Commercial Airplanes sent a message to members of SPEEA at Boeing, saying that his team has agreed to meetings with SPEEA’s leadership to discuss “areas of contention between the company and the union.”

Chief among those is SPEEA’s charge that Boeing has been manipulating data used to help calculate annual pay adjustments for engineers and techs, while also allowing front-line managers to blow off  annual performance reviews required for engineers and technical workers to determine who would be released first in the event of a layoff.

The union, through a spokesman, declined on Monday to talk about the accusations it’s made in writing about the wage issues. BCA’s VP of engineering functions, Todd Zarfos, said in his note that the two sides have “agreed to refrain from any further accusations and rebuttals about the identified areas of dispute.”

Instead, Zarfos said, they will “work together on possible solutions.”

Summary

  • Blistering broadside on pay for engineers, techs.
  • SPEEA goes to Legislature to seek end to “Boeing exemption.”
  • IAM bargaining unit urges members to save for strike.
  • Will Calhoun change management’s approach to labor?
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Boeing tells union: MAX production halt “weeks;” others see months

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By Scott Hamilton and Byran Corliss

Introduction

Dec. 23, 2019, © Leeham News: The Boeing 737 MAX production shut down will be measured in “weeks,” Boeing told one of its unions.

But “weeks” is a highly  open-ended description.

One supplier estimated for LNA that the suspension will be at least 60-90 days.

An aerospace analyst sees the halt lasting 3-6 months at a minimum.

Boeing 737 MAXes stored at Boeing Field. Source: Seattle Times.

LNA’s analysis does not see production resuming before the Federal Aviation Administration notifies Boeing that it has a date certain for recertification. It has announced no timeline, although published reports already suggest this could be any time from mid-February to well into March.

But these are speculative dates. 

Summary
  • Boeing now says that once certification is achieved, delivering from the inventory is a priority over producing new airplanes.
  • This raises additional uncertainty over restarting production.
  • Spirit Aerosystems has some 90 fuselages in storage.
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Boeing union creates strike fund for 2024 contract negotiations

Dec. 21, 2019, © Leeham News: The International Association of Machinists District 751, the touch-labor union at Boeing’s Seattle-area plants, launched a campaign for a strike fund this week.

The current labor contract expires in September 2024, five years from now.

Nevertheless, the union announced its campaign on its Facebook page and a micro-website here.

The union urges members to contribute $50 per paycheck to raise $6,000 by 2024.

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Boeing hiring for key mechanic roles even as production cuts rumored

By BRYAN CORLISS
Dec. 16, 2019, © Leeham News
— Even as Boeing’s board of directors met this weekend to discuss a potential 737 MAX production reduction or freeze, the company has continued to hire workers it will need desperately once it finally gets the go-ahead to resume deliveries of the grounded jet.

So far this month, Boeing hired more than 250 new mechanics at its Puget Sound plants. Insiders also tell LNA managers are talking to their recent retirees–among others- about coming back to work.

This is extremely unusual for Boeing. Historically, hiring at the company all but dries up after Thanksgiving, largely because of a provision in its contract with its union touch-labor workers that makes December a lucrative month to be a Machinist–but an expensive month for Boeing.

Two factors could be driving the hiring: a need to quickly install mandated updates on nearly 800 grounded MAXes once the grounding is lifted, and a long-term global shortage of exactly the kinds of workers who have the necessary skills to do those jobs.

  • No end in sight for MAX grounding;
  • December hiring unusual at Boeing;
  • Boeing may need to lock down certain mechanics now;
  •  Last 777X bonus.

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Union asks Congress to intervene in Boeing inspection issue

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By Bryan Corliss

April 15, 2019, © Leeham News: As Boeing faces federal investigations, shareholder lawsuits, Congressional hearings – and possibly subpoenas – linked to the 737 MAX crashes, another issue flying low on the radar could further complicate the company’s relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration and the elected officials who oversee it.

The issue revolves around the company’s plan to end quality control inspections for several thousand tasks performed by Boeing mechanics in the factory.

That plan – first reported by The Seattle Times in January – involves the use of more “smart tools” to perform work more precisely so that inspections will no longer be required for thousands of tasks. Instead of doing quality checks 100% of the time, as Boeing inspectors have been doing for generations, inspectors will sample 1-in-100 tasks, or maybe less, Boeing executives told the newspaper.

Now, the union for inspectors whose work is going away is asking its influential supporters in Congress to intervene with the FAA. It wants a chance to show the agency data it says proves that the new process will lead to more downstream rework on the assembly line, more injured workers and more production delays.

Summary
  • Borrowing from the auto business
  • Union says bad decisions put deliveries at risk
  • Boeing says new system brings down defects
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Collins contract vote keeps 737 landing gear on track

By Bryan Corliss

March 11, 2019 (c) Leeham News: Workers at the Collins Aerospace landing gear plant in Everett, WA, have approved their first union contract with the company.

Both sides can come away feeling OK with how they did at the bargaining table. But the biggest winner in these talks actually was Boeing, which now doesn’t have to worry about a break in the flow of 737 landing gear for the next 40 months.

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Boeing strikes new pay deal with Machinists

By Bryan Corliss

March 4, 2019, © Leeham News: Boeing and the Machinists Union have come to terms on a deal that will raise wages for the company’s hourly work force and help the company compete for workers in a tight Puget Sound labor market.

The two sides have agreed on a pact that raises new-hire pay by $4 an hour in all job classifications, and raises pay for experienced workers in 32 specific job classifications by as much as $10 an hour.

In all, as many as 16,000 people are getting raises at Boeing, which is about 55% of the IAM-represented work force.

“Not everybody is getting something here, and that’s hard,” said IAM 751 President Jon Holden in an interview with LNA. “But we were using whatever leverage we could to make some improvement.”

In a statement, Boeing said it is “committed to pay that is competitive within the local marketplace.”

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