Monday, June 20, 2011
Boeing announces three major orders at the Paris Air Show. Among them Air Lease Corporation, which will buy as many as thirty-three planes. Boeing also signed orders and commitments for seventeen 747-8 Intercontinentals from two unidentified customers.
Those Boeing orders will lead to more work at Spirit AeroSystems, which makes large sections of Boeing planes. But of more immediate concern to hundreds of Spirit employees, is what their next contract will be. Contract talks started Monday between Wichita's largest employer, and the professional and technical unit of the SPEEA union.
"Another round of aviation labor contract talks begin in earnest under a cloud of economic uncertainty. Those discussions will directly impact about one fourth of Spirit's Wichita workforce," Bob Brewer, SPEEA Midwest executive director said. "Today, we officially kick off main table phase of negotiations."
Subcommittees of the two sides have been meeting for weeks. But those were about non economic issues affecting the worker's contract. Now, comes the dollar and cents part of the talks. "We've been meeting in subcommittees trying to work through those non economic issues because once we get to main table, the central focus will be around the economic issues as we move forward."
Economic issues, including wages and benefits, including health care and pension issues. The workers in the unit represented by SPEEA are professionals, technicians, and other office workers.
"What we need to come away with I think, is not just a contract, but a working agreement that is truly interest-based and supports the needs of our people as well as our company," said Adam Pogue, vice president of labor relations and workforce strategies at Spirit AeroSystems, Inc.
As of the media briefing, Spirit hadn't made a contract proposal to SPEEA. These negotiations still come at a time when the broader economy is struggling to gain traction even though Spirit's aviation business is picking up steam. At times like this negotiations become so much about the economy. "Not only what the economy is today, but trying to out guess what the economy is going to be three, five, seven years down the road," Brewer said.
It was this time last June, when Spirit and the machinists union negotiated a groundbreaking 10-year agreement. That agreement had been something unheard of in the aerospace industry. SPEEA's Brewer won't be surprised to see Spirit try for a longer than usual contract.
"But I would not be surprised to see something longer than three years."
Contract length and economic details will be made available as the sides work towards an offer before the current contract expires July 11th.