Boeing wants a federal mediator to help with SPEEA talks

Nov 29, 2012

After months of unsuccessful contract negotiations, Boeing says it wants a federal mediator to help resolve its contract dispute with SPEEA, the union that represents about 23,000 engineers and technicians in the Puget Sound region.

"We're really concerned there’s been a lack of progress in the past several weeks," Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said. "We’re trying to really exhaust every avenue to try to get some movement."

SPEEA's latest contract offer of 6 percent wage increases over a three-year period would "move the salaries of our employees above the Puget Sound market," the company said in a statement. Boeing earlier this month proposed wage pools ranging from 3 percent to 4.5 percent over a four-year period, which SPEEA leaders criticized.

"It’s all about cost," Alder said. "We’re trying to keep them at the top of the market but not so far above it that we can’t attract work."

For its part, SPEEA says Boeing negotiators rejected the union's proposals and then stopped negotiating partway through talks today and requested a mediator.

"We are disappointed that the Boeing negotiating team left negotiations today mid-session without committing to further negotiation dates," SPEEA Executive Director Ray Goforth said in an emailed statement. "SPEEA has already been in contact with the federal mediation and conciliation service.  SPEEA is willing to consider any option to avoid a work stoppage.  Our goal is to get a contract that reflects
the value our members bring to the Boeing Company."

Aviation analyst Scott Hamilton says the company may have miscalculated by thinking that SPEEA would be easier to negotiate with than the machinists’ union.

"They just don’t have the same level of militancy and I think Boeing was counting on that to ultimately prevail," Hamilton said.

SPEEA members overwhelmingly rejected an earlier contract offer from Boeing. The current contract expired on Sunday, making it possible for the union to vote on strike authorization or for the company to lock out its employees. SPEEA engineers and technicians struck for 40 days in 2000, significantly disrupting production.