WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- The union representing engineers at the Boeing Co.'s military aircraft plant here has recommended that its members reject the company's contract offer and authorize a strike.
Negotiations broke down Tuesday between Chicago-based Boeing and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, which represents 700 engineers at Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems plant.
Union members will vote next week on the same contract they rejected 209-28 earlier this month. This time, the union also is asking for a strike authorization. The vote requires a simple majority on both issues.
Bob Brewer, Midwest director for SPEEA, said Boeing never intended to negotiate with the union about the rejected contract offer.
"The reason the negotiations broke down today is the company negotiators refused to move on any of our key issues within the contract, even though we had a federal mediator involved," Brewer said.
Boeing spokesman Jarrod Bartlett said the company is pleased employees will have the opportunity to vote on the offer. He acknowledged the offer remains essentially unchanged from the one engineers rejected earlier this month.
"We communicated to SPEEA at the time we put the offer on the table that it was our best and final offer," Bartlett said. "Our offer that is on the table remains our best and final offer."
Boeing believes that given economic realities and competitive pressures in Wichita the company's offer rewards employees with wage increases in each year of the contract and with outstanding health care, Bartlett said.
Brewer said there is "a good probability" that the members will authorize a strike.
The union says that doesn't mean a strike will take place. But, SPEEA said, the ability to call one would give union negotiators more clout when talking to the company.
"They want to go back to the company and say, 'This is real. We are going down this path and do you want to have any talks before we go forward,'" Brewer said.
Next week's vote 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 and Hawker Beechcraft have laid off thousands of workers in Wichita, citing canceled aircraft orders.
"The economic situation is not impacting the Boeing Co.," Brewer said. "They are still a multimillion dollar company with billion dollar profits."
A work stoppage by 27,000 Machinists union workers last year forced Boeing to shut down factories and cost the company an estimated $4.3 billion in revenue and $1.2 billion in earnings during the fourth quarter.