As Boeing continues to respond to its ongoing challenge of responding to the grounding of the operational 787 Dreamliner fleet, another challenge lies at the doorstep. About 23,000 engineers who belong to The Society of Professional Engineering
Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) are tallying a vote today on whether to accept Boeing’s latest labor contract offer or authorize a work stoppage. Ballots were due by 5pm today, and both Boeing and SPEEA leaders decline to speculate on the outcome of the current vote. The last work stoppage involving SPEEA occurred in 1999, resulting in a 40 day walkout and the delayed delivery of 50 aircraft.
As The Wall Street Journal points out in its reporting, the irony of today’s vote is that it comes as hundreds of engineers continue working around the clock on the root cause and fix to the suspected 787 lithium ion battery system. A strike could well be another setback in these efforts. The latest efforts in the ongoing investigation focus on examining the formation of microscopic deposits or “dendrites” inside the lithium ion batteries.
Boeing indicates that its contingency plan to have management employees to perform some of the engineering functions. That may not be such a practical solution given the number of regulatory agencies involved in the ongoing investigations.
If a strike is authorized, SPEEA officials indicate it would not come before early March, to allow members to get a full month of health benefits. That interim time could possibly add more time for added negotiations. Meanwhile, Boeing’s 787 supply chain partners continue to be concerned about revenue flow as they await further firm guidance regarding the 787 production schedule in 2013.