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With strike authorization ballots arriving in the mail this week, Conner is hoping to avoid a strike when he needs all of his SPEEA members on the job. (AP Photo/File)

Boeing takes SPEEA union appeal directly to workers

In a last ditch attempt to avert a strike by his engineers and technical workers, Boeing commercial airplanes CEO Ray Conner sent a letter to all SPEEA members asking them to accept the company's offer.

With strike authorization ballots arriving in the mail this week, Conner is hoping to avoid a strike when he needs all of his SPEEA members on the job. He wrote it's time to come together as a team to work for the company's future.

"Nobody wins in a strike," he wrote. "While hurting Boeing and our employees, it would also impact our customers who've put their trust in Boeing's people and products. It's important that we protect our competitiveness in the long-run, even if that means some short-term pain."

SPEEA executive director Ray Goforth said the letter was not well received by his members. "Boeing corporate is trying to take advantage of that by telling people the company's in trouble, just accept this terrible offer and help us get these 787's back in the air," he said.

Gorforth said it's strange that Conner would be getting involved at this late date. "He's played no role in these negotiations," Gorforth said. "It might have been helpful if he'd become involved in the negotiations for the past year."

The engineers and technical workers represented by SPEEA are voting on the company's contract offer and whether to authorize a strike right now. The results of the votes will be released Feb. 19. SPEEA has only been on strike twice before, and only once for any significant amount of time.

The contract offer includes wage-pool increases of five percent, no increases in the workers' contribution to their health care costs and no changes to the current pension system for existing employees. The contract does require that new hires enter into a 401K based system, just like every other employee Boeing has hired since 2009.

It's that pension change for new hires that SPEEA calls a "poison pill" in the contract.

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Read CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Ray Conner's full email below

It's time to come together

I believe we've made an offer that recognizes the tremendous contributions and skills that our engineers and technical employees bring to BCA, BDS, EO&T and SSG. The SPEEA negotiating team asked us to extend the terms of the current contract another four years. We did that in our best and final offer.

Based on some of the questions and concerns raised in the emails I received, I want to clarify a few points:

  • There are no changes to your pension plan in this offer, and Boeing cannot make changes in the future unless ratified by members in a contract - it's that simple.

  • This offer guarantees a 5 percent salary pool for each year of the contract. Boeing executives, non-union and other union-represented employees have a 3 percent salary pool.

  • In the prior contract, SPEEA-represented employees paid 10 percent of their medical costs. This is unchanged in our final offer. Boeing executives and all non-union employees pay 20 percent of the costs.

    Future employees would be part of an enhanced retirement savings plan that would exceed anything offered by our aerospace peers. I can't stress enough how important this move for new hires is to our company's future. Getting a better handle on our pension costs now will enable us to do more amazing things in the future like the 777X and the 787-10X.

    The proposed retirement plan is similar to plans that have been in effect for new hires in other parts of Boeing since 2009. Every potential employee has a choice to either join or not join the Boeing team. Since implementing that change, we have not seen any impact to our recruitment and retention efforts.

    As you know, we are facing challenges on the 787 program. It was your innovation, talent and skill that brought the 787 Dreamliner to life, along with so many other market-leading products and services we've promised our customers. Now more than ever, we need to deliver on those promises by coming together as one team.

    Nobody wins in a strike. While hurting Boeing and our employees, it would also impact our customers who've put their trust in Boeing's people and products. It's important that we protect our competitiveness in the long-run, even if that means some short-term pain.

    We have so much opportunity ahead of us. Together, we can continue to build our reputation as the best aerospace company in the world. We can do anything together, including emerging from our recent difficulties with the 787.

    If you haven't already, I encourage you to review the contract on our website.

    This is a contract for your future, and I hope that you will vote to ratify it. Most of all, I hope you take the opportunity to vote.

    Ray


  • Chris Sullivan, KIRO Radio Reporter
    Chris loves the rush of covering breaking news and works hard to try to make sense of it all while telling stories about real people in extraordinary circumstances.
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