Published January 14, 2013
SEATTLE – Negotiators representing 23,000 Boeing Co engineers are due to restart contract talks on Wednesday after digesting the full terms of the company's latest offer, delivered by email on Monday afternoon.
But prospects of an agreement over a new contract seem as far away as ever, even as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration opens an investigation into the safety of Boeing's 787 aircraft, which will require thorough scrutiny of Boeing's engineering operations.
"The documents just came in two minutes ago, so we haven't even had a chance to look at them," said Ray Goforth, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), on Monday. "The negotiating team intends to spend tomorrow looking at them and then we will be meeting with the company at 1 pm Pacific time (2100 GMT) on Wednesday".
The latest offer, made on paper on Friday, and delivered in full electronically on Monday afternoon, boosts raises for professional workers by 5 percent in each of the first two years of the four-year agreement, and 4 percent in each of the remaining years.
Technicians, a separate category, would get 4 percent raises all four years. Contract provisions, including healthcare and retirement benefits, are unchanged.
SPEEA gave the latest offer a lukewarm reception.
"I don't imagine there's any bags of diamonds hidden in there," said Goforth.
Boeing was more optimistic.
"We feel very good about this offer and look forward to discussing it more with SPEEA's team when we sit back down on Wednesday," said Boeing spokesman Doug Alder Jr.
The offer comes after three days of talks in Seattle with federal mediators last week. The union has not authorized a strike, but has been conducting strike training and Goforth has said a strike appears likely.
The U.S. government on Friday mandated a wide-ranging review of the design and manufacture of Boeing's latest passenger jet, the 787 Dreamliner, citing concern over a fire and other recent problems but insisting the plane was still safe to fly.
(Reporting By Bill Rigby; Editing by Richard Pullin)