Dreamliner: A Step Closer To Being Just A Dream?
Already in the throes of a strike by the International
Association of Machinists, Boeing faces another looming labor
action... this time by the Society of Professional Engineering
Employees in Aerospace.
After meeting with Boeing's negotiating team on Wednesday,
Executive Director Ray Goforth of SPEEA said, "Things are looking
worse. These negotiations will end up in the same train wreck as
they did with the machinists if they don't change how they're
As ANN reported, production of the 787
Dreamliner has already been slowed by the IAM strike, and analysts
are predicting substantially greater setbacks should negotiations
with SPEEA fail. Although originally slated to enter service in May
2008, Peter Arment of American Technology Research opined the 787
may not reach certification and deliveries until sometime in
Continental Airlines, scheduled to receive its first 787 in
Spring 2010, has been advised by Boeing to expect an 18-month
delay. "We'll just wait and see when we get our first 787," Senior
VP Gerald Laderman said.
Bloomberg reports a main point of disagreement is Boeing's
strategy of outsourcing work to outside vendors, supposedly to help
control costs. "They were completely unsympathetic to our
concerns," Goforth said. Like the IAM, SPEEA is demanding the
return of some of the work given to suppliers, but Boeing remains
immovable on the subject. Wednesday, Boeing spokeswoman Karen
Fincutter said, "We won't give up the flexibility we have, but
we're willing to talk about other ways to increase productivity or
other initiatives like that."
Boeing plans to offer a
"substantial increase" in pension payments, to give new employees a
new 401(k)-style plan, and to seek a new contract longer than the
usual three-year norm to increase stability. Goforth, unimpressed,
said, "What they proposed today was full of take-aways, so even if
we were to accept such a terrible contract, why would we lock that
in for longer?"
In view of record orders for aircraft and increased profits,
unions are pushing for contract improvements and no cutbacks in
benefits. Next month, after a salary survey becomes available, the
next round of discussion between SPEEA and Boeing turns to wages
and benefits. Hot topics likely to be on the table include raises,
vacation days, overtime rates, medical benefits, health care, and
limits to Boeing's contract labor use.
Despite the apparent impasse, Fincutter remained optimistic.
"We're hopeful we can have effective negotiations with the union
and come to terms that both reward our employees for success and
enable Boeing to compete in the future."