Spirit AeroSystem’s technical and professional union accepted the company’s offer of a 9 ½ year labor contract Monday, after rejecting Spirit’s previous offer in July.
Members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace’s Wichita Technical and Professional Unit voted 548-210 – 72 percent – in favor of the agreement.
In July, nearly 97 percent of SPEEA members rejected the company’s first offer.
Unlike the last vote, the union added a strike authorization vote that would have allowed SPEEA officials to call for a strike should the offer be rejected. While 82 percent of voting members approved of authorizing a strike, the vote approving the offer nullifies that vote.
“We said from the start that we’d find a landing spot somewhere out there where the company could attract and retain the work force going forward and to put the protections in the contract employees would need – particularly for a long-term deal,” said Bob Brewer, SPEEA Midwest director. “I think we found that landing spot.”
Spirit spokesman Ken Evans said the result was the best possible outcome.
“It means we can start working this ground-breaking partnership focused on the same things – keeping our company healthy and our team for the future intact,” he said.
It’s been a long road with a lot of hard work, Evans said.
“We’re just excited to get to work on this partnership together,” he said.
It’s the fourth long-term agreement Spirit has secured with its labor unions. Others include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Machinists union and the United Aerospace Workers in its Tulsa facility.
Before voting at Curtis Middle School, Dave Rogers, a manufacturing engineer, said the contract was much improved over Spirit’s last offer.
“I think it’s good,” said Rogers, who’s been with Spirit and Boeing before it for 32 years.
For one, the potential for profit sharing is better, he said.
And the company needs a long-term contract to know its costs and be able to bid on more projects, Rogers said.
Mario Evans, a lean strategist, agreed.
“It’s a growing company,” Evans said. “You have to keep that in mind. What you want is a future for the company.”
This offer is much-improved from the previous one, he said.
“The first contract wasn’t good at all,” he said.
Dawn Chippeaux, a manufacturing engineer, has worked at Spirit for six years.
“I’m not for it,”Chippeaux said before voting.
“The 401K is probably the worst in our industry locally,” she said. And health insurance premiums will rise substantially, she said.
Many said they weren’t ready to strike, however.
“I don’t think anybody wants to be without money right now,” said one employee who did not want to give her name.
The contract gives the workers a $2,000 signing bonus, annual market raises starting next year, participation in the Spirit Incentive Plan and increased restrictions on Spirit’s use of contract labor.
The union represents about 2,300 workers at Spirit.
SPEEA negotiators credit an increase in membership for the improved offer. Membership has risen from 30 percent to 52 percent since the last vote.
Because Spirit wanted a long-term agreement, the union took time to make sure the protections were in place, Bob Brewer, SPEEA’s Midwest director, has said.
The agreement uses the Salary Information Retrieval System by Mercer, which establishes benchmark salaries, to determine salary pools for annual raises, SPEEA said.
Employees also will participate in a Spirit Incentive Plan, based on company performance targets. Next year’s payout would range from 3 percent to 6 percent. The target for the next two years is 4 percent, but could be as high as 8 percent. The target from 2015 to 2020 is 6 percent, with a maximum of 12 percent.