Boeing president asks union to approve contract and avoid strike

Hoping to avoid a strike he said could hurt the company's competitiveness in the future, Boeing's President of Commerical Airlines Ray Conner on Thursday sent a letter to SPEEA members asking them to approve the company's latest contract offer.

"Nobody wins in a strike," Conner said in the letter. "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," he said.

SPEEA, the union representing engineers and technical workers, have been working without a contract since their most recent one expired in November.  Boeing this past week put forth what it calls its "best and final" offer though SPEEA spokesman Bill Dugovich said the contract contained a "poison pill" involving the pension plan.

While the majority of the new contract is the same to the previous one, the company is looking to reduce costs by removing new hires from the company's pension plan in favor of an enhanced 401K.

In his letter, Conner said he "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," he said, adding that the similar changes were made for new hires in other parts of the company in 2009.

Dugovich called the change "unacceptable" and said Boeing's own estimates show that the change could cost new employees more than 31 percent at retirement, though SPEEA's calculations show the loss to be more like 41 percent.

Dugovich also said the company is recording "record profits" and "lavishing executives with bonuses" while taking from the engineers and technical workers.

He also said it was curious that Conner would send out a letter, since he has not been involved in negotiations.

"It's interesting he would make the plea to people now," he said.

Dugovich said the union is also looking to avoid a strike.

"Our members don't want to strike," he said. "The company can prevent a strike by honoring the work the engineers and technical work force does for them."

Ballots were sent to union members this week with recommendations that they reject the contract and authorize the negotiating team to strike if need be.

SPEAA last went on strike in 2000. It lasted 42 days.

Ballots must be returned to the union by Feb. 19.

To read Conner's letter, click here.


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