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Spirit, SPEEA ask court to dismiss retiree benefits lawsuit

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Sep. 25, 2012, at 9:45 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Sep. 25, 2012, at 9:48 p.m.

Spirit AeroSystems and the union representing its engineering and professional and technical workers have asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit against Spirit over early retiree benefits.

Spirit and SPEEA agree in the motion filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court that there is not sufficient evidence to warrant further litigation.

The union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, is continuing with claims against Boeing and has filed a motion for summary judgment on the claims.

The lawsuit stems from the June 2005 sale of Boeing’s commercial aviation unit in Wichita to Onex Corp., which formed Spirit AeroSystems.

The class-action suit was filed by union-represented Boeing Wichita workers between the ages of 49 and 55 with at least 10 years of service at the time the sale occurred and who went to work for Spirit.

More than 600 workers represented by SPEEA had at least 10 years of service and were between the ages of 49 and 55 at the time of the sale.

Under their union contracts with Boeing, the workers could retire early at age 55 and collect reduced pensions and Boeing medical benefits until they qualified for Medicare.

They also were eligible for the benefits, according to the terms of the contracts, if they were laid off by Boeing and would reach the age of 55 within six years of the time of the termination.

In the motion, SPEEA said that the evidence failed to establish that Spirit had assumed Boeing’s liabilities to the retiree health benefits sought by claimants.

Thousands of pages of documents were filed and 36 witnesses have been interviewed.

Instead, Spirit “agreed only to offer future retiree health care benefits at levels determined by Spirit defendants or as agreed upon in collective bargaining, which had yet to occur between the various unions and Spirit AeroSystems,” the motion said.

Contact Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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