Boeing and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEAA) have reached a tentative agreement on a new six-year contract extension.
After several weeks of discussions, the SPEAA’s Executive Board and Bargaining Unit Councils have endorsed the Boeing offer. The offer will be put up for vote by the membership from January 27 to February 10 via mail-in ballots.
The surprise agreement comes several months before the current contract’s amendable date between the two parties.
Under the tentative agreement, Boeing would continue to provide SPEAA-represented employees with above-market compensation for their skills.
Boeing vice chairman and commercial airplanes president and CEO, Ray Conner, said the tentative agreement would allow Boeing to be more competitive in the current tough nature of the defense market.
“This tentative agreement recognizes the significant contributions of our engineering and technical workforce and reinforces Boeing’s commitment to the Puget Sound region,” he said.
“As our competitive environment gets tougher, ratification will enable Boeing to be more competitive in today’s and tomorrow’s commercial and defense markets, while helping ensure stability for Boeing’s future as our employees strive to deliver superior products and services to our customers.”
Limiting Boeing layoffs
Boeing and the SPEEA have mutual interest in maintaining a stable Puget Sound workforce. With the tentative agreement signed between the two parties including a commitment to limit layoffs due to work movement if necessary.
If work is moved outside the Puget Sound, Boeing will exercise all reasonable efforts to offer affected employees comparable positions in the SPEAA bargaining unit.
If this relocation of work is deemed necessary, Boeing will conduct a redeployment evaluation period for no less than 120 days before any represented employee is laid off.
Following that, if a position is not available after the evaluation period, an employee would be offered an enhanced layoff benefit providing two weeks of pay for every full year of service, up to a maximum of 60 weeks and a minimum of 26 weeks payable as a lump sum.
The current SPEAA contract which expires in October covers about 14,000 professional engineers and 6,500 technical workers.
Negotiations for the new agreement grew from discussions in regular meetings between the SPEAA and Boeing in recent months.
A frosty relationship in recent times
During the last round of negotiations, 96% of SPEEA union members voted down Boeing’s first contract offer in September 2012.
Tensions between the two parties heightened when SPEEA filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board on October 5, 2015. The company accused Boeing officials of videotaping union members engaged in ‘solidarity’ marches, accusing Boeing officials of seizing employees cameras and deleting photos of their activities during lunchtime rallies in Portland and Everett, Washington.
A strike in February this year seemed imminent, until Boeing extended most elements of the previous contracts that included 5% annual wage pools and no increases to employees for medical coverage.
The union’s leadership said it had unanimously endorsed the agreement and has recommended its members ratify the extension which, if approved, will take effect February 11, 2016 and continue through October 6, 2022.
The tentative agreement between Boeing and the SPEAA features a new retirement savings program that will include a new special company retirement contribution and enhanced 401(k) transition contributions.
The tentative agreement means employees will receive modest increases in cost sharing for participation in Boeing’s market-leading health care plans in addition to having continued access to a zero contribution health care plan.