Union Engineers Reject Boeing Contract Offer

Engineers at Boeing's military aircraft plant in Wichita, Kan., voted overwhelmingly Thursday to reject what the company called its final contract offer.

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Union engineers at Boeing Co.'s military aircraft plant in Wichita voted overwhelmingly Thursday to reject what the company called its final contract offer.

Negotiators for the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, which represents 700 engineers at Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems plant, had urged members to reject the offer.

The vote was 209-28 against accepting the proposal, SPEEA said.

Bob Brewer, SPEEA's Midwest director, said the union was ready to return to the negotiating table to get an offer that employees would accept.

"I think the membership spoke very loudly," Brewer said.

Boeing issued a statement expressing disappointment in the vote.

"This package continues to represent the company's best and final offer, however we are willing to meet with SPEEA leadership to discuss and clarify the provisions of our offer," the company said. "We are trying to work with our employees to build a competitive site in Wichita that is positioned for growth and long-term viability."

The rejection comes amid mounting job losses at Wichita's major aircraft manufacturers, including 800 layoffs announced last year at the Boeing plant. Bombardier Aerospace, Cessna Aircraft Co. and Hawker Beechcraft Corp. have laid off thousands of workers in Wichita, citing canceled aircraft orders.

Chicago-based Boeing has announced a companywide total of 10,000 layoffs amid weaker air traffic and pressure on military budgets.

"The layoffs are a concern to us -- we feel the pain of the people," said Joe Newberry, a software engineer at the Boeing plant and chairman of the SPEEA negotiating team. "But this still comes down to what is fair to the engineers. We believe the company is trying to take advantage of us in this economic situation."

Ruth Mullhatten, an electrical engineer at Boeing, said she voted against the offer because she believes a better proposal can be reached. Boeing engineers in Wichita deserve as good a contract as their SPEEA counterparts in Seattle, who negotiate separately with Boeing.

"There are jobs out there, even in the Wichita area, for engineers," Mullhatten said. "I don't think the layoffs have anything to do with it."

Boeing machinists went on a two-month strike in September, paralyzing the company's commercial aircraft factories. The strike ended with a new contract in early November.

More in Labor