Boeing Co. and its engineers union, at odds over a new contract, suspended talks for the remainder of this year at the request of federal mediators.
Both Boeing and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace agreed to the suspension of talks, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service will work with both sides to schedule new negotiations next year, service Director George H. Cohen said yesterday in a statement.
Doug Alder, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing, and Ray Goforth, the union’s executive director, each forwarded the mediator’s statement and declined to comment on it.
The 23,000 engineers and technical workers represented by the union, largely in the Seattle area where Boeing’s commercial headquarters are located, have been working without a contract. Their last agreement expired Oct. 6 and was extended through Nov. 25 after they rejected Boeing’s first offer.
Goforth said Nov. 20 that it was increasingly likely he’d seek strike authorization from members once the extension ran out, though any walkout wouldn’t occur until after Boeing’s companywide, two-week holiday break in December.
The union objects to Boeing’s plan to slow salary growth and switch new hires into a 401(k)-style retirement program, rather than the current pension plan. Boeing has countered that the cost of engineering in Seattle has risen and that it may have to do development work on future airliners at less-expensive sites.
Speea, as the union is known, encouraged engineers to refuse voluntary overtime and to “work to rule” to slow down the development and deliveries of jets. Speea has struck at Boeing only twice since its 1946 founding: for one day in 1993 and 40 days in 2000.
Boeing’s engineers design new planes, inspect those being built and sign off on the work before aircraft are delivered. That means they’re critical to the company as it boosts production by 60 percent in the four years through 2014 and develops five new variants of existing models.