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Boeing Engineers Move Toward Strike Amid 787 Woes

Jan. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Boeing Co. engineers may go on strike in coming weeks, even as the planemaker scrambles to investigate and fix faulty batteries that grounded its marquee 787 Dreamliner this week.

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace today urged members to reject the company’s best-and-final contract offer in a vote that will be set “in coming weeks.” The ballot is likely to include a request for strike authorization, the union said in a statement, saying the proposal puts retirement benefits at risk.

Boeing proposed salary-increase pools of 5 percent a year over a four-year contract and no change to the health-care plan. New employees would be switched over to a 401(k)-style defined-contribution retirement plan instead of the current defined-benefit pension. That’s been a point of contention in talks.

“This is a market-leading offer by all measures –- rewarding our employees for the contributions they make every day,” Mike Delaney, vice president of engineering for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in the company’s statement. “Agreeing to this contract as soon as possible will allow all of us to focus our time and energy on the immediate challenges facing the company.”

The challenge right now is to figure out what is responsible for battery faults in two 787 Dreamliners, causing a fire in one and an emergency landing for another and forcing regulators to ground the global fleet indefinitely while it’s investigated.

Boeing’s insistence on changing the pension is “a move that escalates its mounting problems,” Speea said in its statement. “Boeing’s actions reiterate the company’s growing disrespect for the engineers and technical workers who are essential to working issues and restoring confidence in the 787.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Susanna Ray in Seattle at sray7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net

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