TUKWILA, Wash. — Boeing on Friday said it is willing to meet with negotiators from SPEEA and a federal mediator in Washington, D.C. on Monday.
SPEEA represents 23,000 engineers and technicians in their negotiations with Boeing - negotiations which broke down Thursday. SPEEA says talks need to continue in the Settle area, but so far, no new talks are scheduled.
“The union’s been willing to discuss everything,” said Ray Goforth, the Executive Director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace. “The difference is in the hard line positions the company’s taken.”
Both sides admit they are still far apart, and both consider the other dug in. The presence of a federal mediator could bring a thaw. Currently both sides are far apart on key issues such as wage pools, the future of retirement and pensions, and how much of the cost of medical insurance employees need to shoulder moving forward.
“I don’t think they’re trying to provoke a strike. I don’t think they’re afraid of a strike. I think they have convinced themselves that no matter how bad the offer is, that the engineers and techs will be willing to take it,” said Goforth in a TV interview on KING 5.
Boeing declined our request to speak about the talks on camera, but does say it did not “walk out” on negotiations Thursday as the union has alleged. Both sides agree that it was Boeing negotiators who said that the time for a federal mediator had come.
In a statement Friday, Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said: “Mediation is a voluntary process. Given that SPEEA has declined to go to Washington, D.C. to meet with FMCS (Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service) officials there, Boeing is prepared to invite an FMCS official to meet with the parties at a location in the Seattle area away from either Boeing’s or SPEEA’s facilities, so the two parties can meet for concentrated periods of time singularly focused on trying to reach an agreement.”
“SPEEA is ready to negotiate. We talked to the mediator yesterday, we talked to the mediator today,” said Goforth, who is also trying to put down what he says is a wildcat strike planned by unknown SPEEA members December 5. “I’ve been trying to track down who the organizers are and explain that such an action isn’t sanctioned by the union, isn’t protected under federal law, and they absolutely should not engage in this conduct.”
But he added: “I do think it is a sign of just how frustrated people are with the company, that this type of thing is happening.”