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Boeing reaches tentative deal with engineers

/ Source: The Associated Press

Boeing Co. and the union representing its engineering and technical employees said Tuesday they had reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year labor contract for workers in Washington’s Puget Sound region and in three other states.

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace said that it “strongly recommends” that its members accept the offer, which features sizable pay raises and inclusion in a worker incentive program. Members have until 5 p.m. PST on Dec. 1 to cast their votes, with a simple majority necessary to approve the contract.

“We met all of our original goals,” including wage increases, improved retirement and no increase in health care costs, SPEEA spokesman Bill Dugovich said Tuesday.

The union represents nearly 18,000 engineers and technical workers in the Puget Sound region, as well as in California, Oregon and Utah. Separate talks covering 785 SPEEA members in Wichita, Kan., began Nov. 8 to renew a contact that expires Dec. 5.

Over the course of the three-year contract proposal, Boeing said engineers will see average salary increases to at least $95,884, from $82,060 currently. Technical employees will see wages rise to at least $71,134 on average, from $61,744 currently.

For the first time, engineers and technical workers will be included in an employee incentive plan that could give workers as much as 20 days extra pay annually, based on the company’s financial performance.

Boeing also said it would not increase health care costs for employees.

Anyone hired on or after Jan. 1, 2007, will not be eligible to receive retiree medical benefits if he or she chooses to retire before age 65. However, anyone hired before that date will continue to be eligible for early retiree medical coverage.

The company increased pension payouts to $70 per month for every year worked, up from $60 currently. It also increased its 401(k) plan match slightly.

“We’ve extended a respectful and very competitive contract offer that recognizes the tremendous contributions of our engineering and technical employees,” Alan Mulally, the head of Boeing’s Seattle-based commercial airplanes division, said in a statement.

The talks with the engineers and technical workers ended up being much more amicable than Chicago-based Boeing’s earlier negotiations with about 18,400 Machinists in the Puget Sound area, Wichita and Gresham, Ore.

The Machinists, who assemble commercial airplanes, walked off the job for a month after rejecting an initial offer in September. A revised offer gave the workers better pension benefits and guaranteed no changes to current health care premiums.

About 1,500 Boeing machinists in California, Alabama and Florida have been on strike since Nov. 2 after talks broke down between their union and the company unit that operates the Delta rocket program.