Negotiations between Boeing (NYSE: BA ) and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) appear to be entering their endgame. Last week, Boeing finally budged on its negotiating stance, offering SPEEA's engineers an average of 4.5% annual salary increases over the next four years, and technicians an average of 4% -- plus lump sum bonus payments equal to 1% of salary in the first two years of the contract. This offer is very close to the rate of wage increases under SPEEA's previous contract.
Yesterday, SPEEA counteroffered with a proposal to set aside changes to the previous contract on which the parties disagree -- Boeing, for example, is still insisting on higher contributions to medical insurance, and on switching new hires to 401(k) retirement programs instead of pensions. The proposal also wants to continue under the existing regime governing these issues, and make only changes to the contract upon which both parties already agree. The union says it's prepared to work under such an arrangement for another four years.
Instead of continuing to argue, SPEEA said that it's time to put aside differences and focus on getting the problems with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner fixed. According to SPEEA president Tom McCarty:
These negotiations have been going on for more than a year. 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.
Contentious issues on which SPEEA and the parties are close to reaching agreement include:
- Boeing's proposed changes to the "funding mechanism for the Ed Wells Partnership training program"
- acceptance of "the same pension proposal that Boeing negotiated with the International Association of Machinists" union last year
- Boeing's confirmation that it will recognize same-sex survivor pension benefits pursuant to Washington state law.
The union calls this its "best and final" offer, implying that, if Boeing does anything but accept it, the union will call for a strike next week. The contracts covering some 23,000 employees expired in late November.