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Boeing Seattle strike could affect SPEEA employees at Wichita Spirit Wichita SPEEA officials warned members to save time off until negotiations have been completed.

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Sep. 29, 2012, at 7:40 a.m.

When votes are counted on Monday, it’s expected that members of Boeing’s engineering and professional and technical union in Seattle will have rejected the company’s proposal for a new contract.

Should the union eventually strike, some Wichita Spirit AeroSystems professional and technical workers could be affected, Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace officials in Wichita warned members this week.

Some Spirit employees represented by SPEEA could go to shortened work weeks should there be a work stoppage in Seattle, the union told employees in an e-mail.

Talks between SPEEA’s engineering unit and its professional and technical unit in Seattle and Boeing aren’t going well, the e-mail said.

A strike isn’t imminent, however. SPEEA has not held a strike authorization vote. That would likely be the next step should the vote fail on Monday.

Even so, negotiations would continue.

“There’s certain steps that have to be put in place” for a strike to occur, said SPEEA Midwest director Bob Brewer in Wichita. “Potentially, the company and the union get back together and talk again.”

Still, SPEEA officials are recommending Spirit employees save their earned time off time until negotiations have been completed.

“Be aware if they do go on strike, it could impact some of us here in Wichita with short work weeks again,” the e-mail to SPEEA-represented employees said. The e-mail was signed by Debbie Logsdon, SPEEA Midwest chairman.

When Boeing Machinists went on a 57-day strike in 2008, Spirit AeroSystems implemented a three-day work week instead of furloughing employees.

Employees were able to use earned time off to make up the other two days, meaning they could receive a full week’s pay.

Spirit spokesman Ken Evans said it’s too early to speculate about something that may not happen.

“Our hope is that negotiations will be successful and an agreement reached,” Evans said.

SPEEA officials in Seattle have said Boeing’s offer is not acceptable.

The union says the offer contains the lowest wage pools since 1975, strips disability and life insurance benefits from SPEEA members called to serve in the military, cuts retirement benefits for future new hires by 40 percent and make cuts in the growth in benefits to existing employees.

“The scope of disrespect for the engineering and technical work force evident in this counterproposal is breathtaking,” union negotiators wrote in a letter to a Boeing official.

A strike by Boeing’s professional and technical workers would cause production interruptions in the Pacific Northwest, Brewer said. With the workers on strike, they would not be able to accept products, such as fuselages, sent from Wichita.

It’s not known how many Spirit employees would be impacted in such a scenario.

SPEEA represents more than 3,000 professional and technical employees at Spirit.

“It’s hard to predict,” Brewer said.

During the last Boeing strike, some programs were affected. “Others never missed a heartbeat,” Brewer said.

“There’s certain steps in the process that only the professional and technical employees can buy off on in order to put product through the process,” Brewer said.

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

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