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Originally published Friday, January 11, 2013 at 1:58 PM

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Boeing ups offer to engineers; SPEEA isn’t satisfied

Union leadership calls recent talks “unproductive” despite an increased salary proposal.

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

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Boeing increased its salary offer to white-collar union members in contract talks Friday, but the union reacted negatively and the two sides remain short of a deal.

Management is offering engineers on average two 5 percent and two 4 percent annual raises in the proposed four-year contract.

Other technical staff, such as designers, data analysts and planners who act as the liaison between engineers and production workers, on average would get 4 percent each year, with an additional lump-sum payment equaling 1 percent of their salary in the first two years.

Ray Goforth, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), said the last three days of talks, just restarted after a monthlong break, were “unproductive.”

The union represents some 23,000 employees, almost all in the Puget Sound region.

Newly hired engineers earn less than $70,000 a year, while veteran engineers can earn more than $200,000. The average Boeing engineer’s salary is $110,000.

Goforth has previously said that a strike in February is a likely outcome.

“I’m pessimistic,” Goforth said Friday. He complained that Boeing hadn’t given the negotiating team a complete revised offer but only the top-line salary piece of its proposal.

Mike Delaney, vice president of engineering at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a briefing with media Friday that the new offer is “market-leading by every definition.”

And he insisted the union has a complete offer because everything besides the top-line salary details remains unchanged since the last proposal Boeing put on the table.

The union had been sharply critical of Boeing’s previously proposed health-benefits terms and its plan to switch future hires from a traditional pension to a 401(k)-style savings plan with a smaller payout than the current pension.

Asked if Boeing can handle an engineering strike, Delaney said the company has contingency plans in place and noted that he has a large engineering team in California.

“We don’t want just any deal,” Delaney said. “We want a deal that works for the company short term and long term.”

Goforth dismissed Boeing’s public announcement of its raised offer as “a lot of hype.”

“It looks like their plan is still to bypass this negotiating team and sell it directly to the membership,” he added.

That may be so.

In an interview earlier this week, Delaney said he’s confident Boeing’s engineers will run management’s final offer thought their own spreadsheets, figure out the impact on their own family situations, and “look at the trade-offs of where this (SPEEA) negotiating team and leadership team is trying to take them.”

“Then they’ll make their own decision,” Delaney said.

Talks are scheduled to resume at 1 p.m., Wednesday, with federal mediators in attendance.

Dominic Gates: (206) 464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

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