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Friday, February 1, 2013

Because the One Thing That Won't Get the 787 Flying Again Are Engineers

Posted by on Fri, Feb 1, 2013 at 10:44 AM

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), the union representing 22,950 Boeing engineers and technical workers, will be mailing out strike authorization ballots next week with a recommendation to reject the aerospace giant's latest "final" contract offer. Members will have until February 19 to vote.

The two sides are at odds over Boeing's insistence on dropping pension benefits for new hires. SPEAA argues that Boeing's proposal to replace the existing defined pension plan with a 401K not only represents a 40 percent benefit reduction for new hires, it also threatens the retirement benefits of current employees and retirees. The union estimates that with a large proportion of its members expected to retire over the next decade, the tipping point at which the majority of active SPEEA members are without pension benefits could come within two contract negotiation cycles:

Once this group with the lesser benefit attains majority status in the union, it is expected that Boeing will insert the freezing of existing pensions into its last-best-final contract offers.

That's not an unreasonable concern. This divide and conquer strategy is exactly what other companies have used to roll back pension benefits elsewhere.

With Boeing in the midst of a major crisis over battery fires that have indefinitely grounded the 787 fleet, you'd think they'd want to keep their engineers from going on strike. But apparently not. SPEA has already offered to extend its existing contract. Boeing rejected that offer.

So if this really is Boeing's "last best final contract offer," it's hard to see how the company avoids a long and costly strike.


Comments (10) RSS

Newest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
@3: You are the stupidest fucking fool alive.
Posted by 401Ks suck-diddley-uck on February 2, 2013 at 7:23 AM · Report this
the pension plan doesn't accrue anything. you're employer is supposed to guarantee it, but they don't have to keep their word. see: every state with a republican governor that runs into financial problems. With a 401K it's your money, you can buy an index fund that'll be the same thing the pension fund is invested in.
Posted by amsellie on February 1, 2013 at 5:58 PM · Report this
emma's bee 8
@4: Damn straight. I left a company with a 401(K) plan in 1992 to move to the state of MN with a pension program (which accrues benefits at 5% annually), then left that in 1995 for grad school. Ever since, I have followed the two approximately equivalent (small) amounts of money rather bemusedly, to see which would perform more favorably. The state pension program has far outperformed the 401(k), even before you factor in the annual costs to administer the useless thing.
Posted by emma's bee on February 1, 2013 at 3:39 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 7
Good Lord! Surely these math-loving fools can't expect to avoid poverty in their old age merely because they devoted their lives to making our products operate safely?

We'll crash a HUNDRED burning planes if that's what it takes to replace them all with unintelligible Chinese PhDs!

Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on February 1, 2013 at 1:29 PM · Report this
theophrastus 6
The most significant factor in current day considerations of all-things Boeing is the relatively new bean-counting culture that entered when McDonnell Douglas bought Boeing (yes i meant to write "bought"). out 'flew' the old pride of engineering, in oozed the pennywise and pound foolish out-sourcing. So... think how some short-sighted-suit will likely respond to a union threat and you will out-predict 7 outta 10 industry reporters.
Posted by theophrastus on February 1, 2013 at 1:05 PM · Report this
rob! 5
@3, get/keep educated on ALL your options, and don't be swept up in cheerleading from your HR department or family/friends/co-workers. Cato's skepticism @4 is far from unfounded.

Ten years ago or so, there was heavy pressure on me and my colleagues to switch our 401Ks from one type to a slightly different type that, at the time, paid a slightly higher rate of return.

I didn't switch. Today that portion of my savings earns a steady (and safe) 5.5% annual yield. The other plan is getting 0.25% or less, and has been for years.
Posted by rob! on February 1, 2013 at 12:50 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 4
@3, enjoy the cat food when you retire in 55 years. I'm working on a cat food cookbook for the elderly set. Seriously, the 401K is a Ponzi scheme of bibical proportions. It's not designed for you little people; it's designed for the fund managers to make a killing on it.

Oh..and it comes from the mind of the Reagan Administration.

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on February 1, 2013 at 12:39 PM · Report this
As a 20-something year old with a pension, I'd much rather have a 401K with the same level of matching.
Posted by amsellie on February 1, 2013 at 11:20 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 2
Hey, what's wrong with outsourcing, so long as you don't mind your planes catching on fire, engines falling off, or wings being no longer attached?
Posted by Will in Seattle on February 1, 2013 at 11:08 AM · Report this
roddy 1
It was Boeing's fucked up labor relations that drove the decision to outsource the 787 to every corner of the globe. Boeing needs to make a choice: repair its relations with its workforce, invest in skilled, creative, problem solvers and build better products or continue to be yet another defense contractor relying on the fucked up defense procurement system for its survival. Basically old Boeing vs. McDonnell Douglas. Smart money is on McDonnell Douglas, I'm afraid.
Posted by roddy on February 1, 2013 at 11:07 AM · Report this

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