Saturday, February 23, 2013

Plane maker Suffers Double Whammy as Possible Strike Follows Groundings

As Boeing Reels from Dreamliner Problem - Bad News on the Labour Front
Shipping News Feature

US – It has not been a good month for Boeing, following the grounding of the new 787 Dreamliner fleet whilst a fix for the lithium ion battery problems we reported on previously is found comes news of a possible strike after workers belonging to the same union voted different ways on a new contract deal.

Last year things looked good for the plane maker as a steady stream of orders for its new behemoth trickled in but the sight of a Japanese Dreamliner sitting on the tarmac whilst smoke billowed forth and passengers evacuated gave the company’s credibility a serious knock and undid months of excellent PR.

This week the management’s proposals to change pension related benefits for new employees seems to have been a step too far for a majority of the 8,000 or so technical staff represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace union whilst the 15,000 engineers, also SPEEA members, readily accepted the new contracts.

The managements position is bad but so again is that of the union which is facing a split in its ranks. Without wholehearted agreement a strike, backed by the technicians, may be unavoidable but will probably be very unwelcome to the engineers who outnumber them almost two to one.

All of this will do nothing for Boeing’s credibility, let alone its share price if industrial action ensues and Boeing is already talking of ‘contingency plans’ which will include senior staff adopting the roles of some sections of the group afflicted by strike action. Most within the company hope that a swift mediation, proposed to begin next week, will result in a solution equable to all.

Photo: Dreamliner production line. A bad time for a strike, the news came after Boeing announced it was to step up jet production.