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Boeing engineers propose contract settlement to shift focus to Dreamliner problems

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Jan. 16, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
January 16, 2013 3:45 pm

The union representing Boeing’s engineers and technical workers today proposed a extending an existing labor contract to end contentious negotiations and allow them and the company to focus on solving issues with Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.

The new, 4-year labor agreement would include areas where the company and union negotiators have already agreed and incorporate a pension formula that the company included in its earlier contract with its union machinists.

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace said the agreement would “free Boeing and 23,000 engineers and technical workers from protracted and increasingly contentious negotiations that appear headed for a strike. It also allows the company and its technical workforce to focus on reaffirming confidence and proving the 787 is the reliable and safe product employees know it to be.”

The Federal Aviation Administration grounded 787 Dreamliners after a series of incidents in the last several weeks raised questions about the plane’s safety. Two batteries in the planes’ electrical equipment bays have caught fire recently in seperate incidents. In the latest, a 787 in Japan made an emergency landing after passengers smelled smoke. In an earlier incident, a Japan Air Lines plane that had discharged in Boston experienced a fire in a lithium ion battery in the aft end of the plane.

Other issues including failed generators, leaking fuel and a cracked windshield have prompted the FAA to start a re-examination of the plane’s safety.

Accepting the offer would also let the company move forward with other urgent issues including “supporting customers, engineering the 767 tanker, 737 MAX, increasing 737 and 777 production rates and the other products needed for our national defense.”

“These negotiations have been going on for more than a year,” said Tom McCarty, SPEEA president. “At this point, we should move forward with the items upon which we can agree, and leave the status quo in place for the remaining items.”

In addition to the proposed contract extension, SPEEA requested that Boeing continue to meet under the auspices of FMCS mediation to tackle the difficult issues that have proven so divisive in these negotiations.

The contract extension offer also proposed Boeing recognize same-sex survivor pension benefits as provided in Washington state law.

“With our contracts put to rest, we can all roll up our sleeves and work the issues facing the 787 and Boeing,” said Sandy Hastings, a union negotiating team member. “SPEEA members know this is a great airplane, and we are eager to prove this to our customers, the flying public and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).”

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