Boeing's engineer union says strike is likely, prepares workers

Fri Dec 7, 2012 5:58pm EST
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By Alwyn Scott

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Saying a strike now appears likely, the union representing Boeing Co's (BA.N: Quote) 23,000 engineers held picket-line training this week to prepare for a work stoppage that could disrupt billions of dollars worth of plane deliveries and help Airbus catch up to Boeing on jet designs.

The preparations come after federal mediators suspended talks between Boeing and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace on Wednesday, after two days.

"I think the likelihood of a strike is very high," Ray Goforth, executive director of SPEEA, said Friday.

The union has not called for a vote to authorize a strike and said it would not stage a walkout until January at the earliest because Boeing closes its factories for the last week of December.

Bargaining began in April to replace contracts for engineers and technical workers, mostly at Boeing's factories near Seattle.

There is scope for the sides to reach a deal, since talks with the mediator are due to resume in January.

But the friction is rising between Boeing and its white-collar engineers, who design the jets and work closely with machinists to build them.

Last week, Boeing said the sides remain far apart on terms and called in the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a Washington, D.C., agency that facilitate labor talks.   Continued...

Models of Boeing 747 and 777 passenger planes are displayed at the Boeing booth as part of the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai November 12, 2012, one day before its official opening on Tuesday. REUTERS/Bobby Yip