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Engineers Reject Spirit Aerosystems’ Contract

Union members overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer from Spirit Aerosystems over proposed changes to company's overtime policy, health care premiums and wage increases.

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Engineering union members overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer from Spirit Aerosystems Holdings Inc. over proposed changes to the company's overtime policy and health care premiums, and a lack of guaranteed wage increases, a union official said Friday.

About 90 percent of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace members who voted Thursday night rejected the proposed 3½-year contract offer. The union represents more than 700 engineers at Spirit AeroSystems, a Wichita-based company that manufactures large aircraft parts for companies including Boeing Co. and France-based Airbus.

Union and company officials will meet Friday to discuss moving forward.

Bob Brewer, the union's midwest director, said members opposed changes that could mean four hours of unpaid time before getting overtime pay, a doubling of health care premiums in the second year and a lack of guaranteed wage increases.

"New engineers say that with no raises, paying double their medical and then working overtime for free, they'll have to go somewhere else," Brewer said.

The offer also would allow engineers to be temporarily laid off or put on short work weeks but would retain contract engineers who are not Spirit employees.

There was no strike clause in the contract vote, but Brewer said one would be included in the next contract vote.

Spirit spokesman Ken Evans said the vote's outcome was disappointing because it was "an excellent contract."

"It aligned with the market on both pay and benefits all three years," he said.

He said the contract included money for promotions and discretionary performance awards and market reviews in the second and third year of the contract. And it offered a variable incentive plan for the first time.

"Clearly, we have some thinking to do before we determine what happens next," Evan said.

The union's negotiating team recommended accepting the offer earlier this month, but Brewer said that was based "on a fairly low membership." He said union membership rose almost 20 percent, about 150 new members, in the last two weeks, giving the union about 49 percent representation.

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