Leaders of Boeing's engineering and technical workers union are recommending that members reject the company's best and final offer and go on strike.
Boeing's last offer to the Society of Profession Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) after eight months of negotiations appeared to meet the union's recent demand to continue existing contract terms for the next four years.
A provision to eliminate pensions for new hires, however, prompted SPEEA's negotiating committees to unanimously recommend that the union's 23,000 member reject the offer. By eliminating pensions, SPEEA says, the company "puts pensions and retiree medical [benefits] at risk for existing members".
Boeing says the final offer to the union proposes no such changes to existing members. "In fact, our offer increases the pension basic benefit. Any future change to that would have to be negotiated," Boeing says.
Boeing's final offer still seeks to convert new hires from pensions to a contribution scheme known in the USA as a 401(k) plan, in which the employer matches a percentage of an employee's untaxed contribution to an investment account.
SPEEA's leadership also viewed Boeing's last offer as a sign of "disrespect" to engineers, who "are essential working issues and restoring confidence in the 787".
Both sides seemed closer to an agreement only a week ago. As concerns first surfaced about the 787's battery, SPEEA proposed to extend existing contract terms four more years. Boeing agreed to the majority of SPEEA's new terms, but did not heed SPEEA's demands to provide pensions for all members.
SPEEA members rejected Boeing's initial offer by a roughly 96% margin on 1 October, forcing both sides to resume negotiations.