updated 11/15/2008 1:00:01 AM ET 2008-11-15T06:00:01

A tentative settlement has been reached on a four-year contract covering nearly 21,000 Boeing Co. engineers, scientists and technical workers, following talks that were delayed by a Machinists union strike.

Negotiators for Boeing and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace announced the deal Friday. Leaders of both the professional and technical bargaining units recommended approval.

"Our goal was to negotiate contracts that reward our employees for their hard work and the success they helped create," said Doug Kight, Boeing vice president of Human Resources. "This agreement provides market-competitive pay and benefits that enable us to attract and retain the best talent, remain on the leading edge of technology and continue to win business in uncertain times."

"These agreements are the result of lots of hard work by all parties," said SPEEA Executive Director Ray Goforth. "It's gratifying that we could reach an agreement and put the decision in members' hands."

The agreements provide salary increase pools of 5 percent in each year. Engineers in the professional unit are guaranteed an increase of at least 2 percent each year and technical workers are guaranteed increases of at least 2.5 percent during each year, the union said.

The contract provides the continuation of traditional pensions for all employees, the union said. The company had wanted to replace traditional pensions with 401(k) programs for new hires.

About 100 engineers in Utah also will remain part of the bargaining unit. Boeing had wanted to remove them.

Health care benefits had some improvements, but with some cost increases. Prescription drugs, for example, will no longer apply to the annual deductible under the traditional medical plan.

Another major concern, outsourcing of work done by union employees, was addressed by allowing for "early involvement by affected employees in allowing input of concerns and recommendations" in outsourcing, the union said.

On Thursday, contract talks appeared to be stalled, and union leaders approved a strike authorization vote. That vote will now be conducted simultaneously with the contract ratification votes, Dugovich said. Time for the voting by mail has not yet been determined, he said.

SPEEA's two contracts expire Dec. 1. One covers about 14,200 scientists, engineers and other professionals with average salaries of $92,161. The other covers nearly 6,700 manual writers, technicians and other hourly workers paid an average of $68,157. Nearly 20,000 are in the Seattle area and about 550 are in Utah, California and Oregon.

Members of each unit will be asked whether to approve their contract and whether to authorize their leaders to call a strike if the contract is rejected. A majority is required for ratification or for strike authorization by either unit.

A federal mediator monitored the SPEEA negotiations at a suburban hotel from the start and began taking a more active role Tuesday, the original target date for reaching an agreement.

SPEEA and Boeing committees met for months to discuss parts of the contract before the final phase of bargaining began Oct. 29, a day later than planned because the company's chief negotiator was in federally mediated talks to end a strike by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The Machinists walkout halted production at Boeing's commercial airplane factories for eight weeks before the Machinists accepted a four-year contract and began returning to work Nov. 2. The strike cut Boeing's revenue by more than $100 million a day, cost strikers an average of more than $7,000 and forced subcontractors around the world to lay off workers.

It was the fifth major walkout to hit Boeing's commercial airplane operations in two decades, following Machinists strikes of 28 days in 2005, 69 days in 1995 and 48 days in 1989 and a 40-day SPEEA strike in 2000.

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