MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Boeing locks out private firefighters in Seattle over pay dispute with strike looming

May 5, 2024, 12:30 PM | Updated: 12:38 pm

Photo: The exterior of the Boeing Company headquarters on March 25, 2024....

The exterior of the Boeing Company headquarters on March 25, 2024. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch, Getty Images)

(Photo: Kevin Dietsch, Getty Images)

Boeing has locked out its private force of firefighters who protect its aircraft-manufacturing plants in the Seattle area and brought in replacements after the latest round of negotiations with the firefighters’ union failed to deliver an agreement on wages.

“Despite extensive discussions through an impartial federal mediator, we did not reach an agreement with the union,” Boeing said in a statement, according to The Associated Press. “We have now locked out members of the bargaining unit and fully implemented our contingency plan with highly qualified firefighters performing the work of (union) members.”

More on Boeing: Engineers allege retaliation over safety concerns

The company said it locked out about 125 firefighters and a facility about 170 miles away in central Washington, according to The Associated Press.

The firefighters serve as first responders to fires and medical emergencies and can call in help from local fire departments.

In a statement Saturday, the International Association of Firefighters Local I-66 union said Boeing’s lockout is intended to “punish, intimidate and coerce its firefighters into accepting a contract that undervalues their work.”

“Putting corporate greed over safety, Boeing has decided to lockout our members and the safety of the Washington facilities has been needlessly put at risk,” Edward Kelly, the IAFF’s general president, said.

Last week, Boeing firefighters were preparing to strike if an agreement couldn’t be reached with the company.

Union members of Local I-66, representing firefighters at Boeing, hit the picket lines outside the Boeing facilities in Renton and Everett April 29. The firefighters claim low wages are forcing them to leave the company and that Boeing wants to extend the length of service from 14 to 19 years before a worker can earn the top salary.

In comparison, Seattle firefighters achieve the highest pay grade in three to four years.

Local I-66 represents more than 120 firefighters working in Boeing fire stations in Auburn, Everett, Renton, Seattle and Moses Lake.

More than 80% of the union voted against the previous contract proposals presented to them. In addition to issues with career progression, the union cited disparities in pay and safety concerns were listed as the primary reasons for rejecting previous proposals.

The proposed compensation was reportedly 20% lower than the industry standard, according to FOX 13.

Boeing released a statement last week regarding the potential strike.

“Our contract offer includes a highly competitive market-based compensation package that is aligned with industrial fire departments,” Boeing said in an updated statement, according to FOX 13. “The union repeatedly attempts to apply municipal fire department standards to Boeing’s industrial fire department despite the statement of work being completely different.

More on Boeing: Boeing pays Alaska Airlines $160 million in compensation for blowout of panel during flight

“Our firefighter staffing levels are actually higher than the safety standards applicable to industrial fire departments,” the statement continued. “The union is using standards that do not apply to this bargaining unit.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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