Spirit union to seek arbitration

Spirit AeroSystems’ technical and engineering union said it is preparing to file a lawsuit asking for arbitration by an outside arbitrator.

The union alleges that Spirit refuses to honor the grievance process from a dispute over changes to the employee rating system.

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace represents 900 Spirit AeroSystems engineers and technical workers in its bargaining units.

Typically disputes regarding alleged violations of bargaining agreements go to an independent arbitrator for a final judgment, the union said.

Spirit, it alleges, is refusing to honor that contractual grievance process.

The problem arose from the start of a new performance management process. In the past, employees were rated on individual performance, the union said. But new criteria based upon company performance resulted in the downgrade of employees, the union said.

“This wasn’t just moving of the goalposts,” Ray Goforth, SPEEA executive director, said in a statement.

“This was switching games altogether. Employees who had been rated highly throughout the year suddenly found themselves rated as marginal performance because of their managers’ mistakes.”

It would be unfortunate if SPEEA chooses this path, said Ken Evans, a Spirit AeroSystems spokesman.

“But we will respond appropriately should that occur. It’s well known how much Spirit values our partnerships we have with our labor unions. Now more than ever, it’s important that together we focus on the top priority of keeping our company healthy.”

The union said that performance ratings are used to grant raises, give promotions, and in extreme cases, terminate employees.

The process is negotiated and included in the union contract, SPEEA said.

SPEEA also has filed an unfair labor practice claim with the National Labor Relations Board.

The union is asking Spirit to return to its “agreed-upon evaluation process” that rated employees on their individual work rather than factors outside their control like company performance or the price of Spirit stock, the union said.