SPEEA-Spirit talks to resume with mediator

WICHITA — Spirit AeroSystems and its professional and technical union are heading back to the negotiating table in the presence of a federal mediator.

The first day of resumed talks will be Aug. 25.

Members, in a near unanimous vote, rejected Spirit's 9 1/2-year contract offer on July 28. The union represents 2,300 professional and technical workers.

SPEEA requested the presence of a federal mediator.

"In the first go-around, things didn't go well," said SPEEA Midwest director Bob Brewer. "I think that was indicated by the vote."

There's a lot of work to do, he said.

"I think there's still potential for a very positive outcome, but with that said, a federal mediator... is a tool that you have in negotiations," Brewer said. "I want to have every tool available that during these second set of talks we get things right."

That way, if intervention by a mediator is needed, he will be up on the issues and where each party stands on them, Brewer said.

Spirit didn't agree that a mediator needed to be involved, said Spirit spokesman Ken Evans.

"However, in the interest of getting things going, we have agreed to have a mediator as an observer."

He wanted to be clear that the negotiations are not in mediation. The mediator's role will be to observe.

"The company sees this as a positive sign that we are heading back to the table," Evans said.

Spirit's focus will remain on keeping the company healthy and its team intact, he said. It also wants to create a contract with the union that creates a relationship and a partnership with SPEEA.

"This workforce is very important to us," Evans said.

SPEEA members said they rejected Spirit's contract offer because it capped salary pools, offered no wage guarantees or cost-of-living increases and included a lower bonus plan than that for other salaried officials.

It also increased health insurance costs from 10 percent of the cost to 20 percent by the end of the contract. Many also opposed the contract's long length.