Appeals Court Sides With Spirit AeroSystems

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- A federal appeals court sided Tuesday with Spirit AeroSystems in a labor dispute stemming from the way the Wichita-based aircraft parts maker evaluates employee performance.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the district properly refused the union's efforts to compel arbitration over the issue.

Company spokesman Ken Evans declined comment. The union did not immediately respond Wednesday to phone and email messages seeking comment.

At issue in the dispute is the contention by The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace that it was not consulted when the company changed its method of evaluating employees.

In response, the company denied the union grievance, arguing its collective bargaining agreement excluded disputes about employee evaluations from the usual grievance process. It also contended the union's allegations were invalid.

SPEEA then demanded arbitration. After reaching an impasse about the availability, the union sued in federal court in a move to force Spirit AeroSystems to arbitrate the grievance over the job evaluations.

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten granted summary judgment last year to the company, finding that the parties' collective bargaining agreement does not provide for arbitration over disputes about the employee performance process. The 10th Circuit agreed.

In its ruling, the appeals court found that the grievance procedure outlined in the labor contract applies only to individuals rather than class-wide dispute brought by the union. The court also agreed with the company that the only exception is a lockout, which was not the situation in this case.

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