3/22/08

Union impedes worker pay, decert begins

A group of Spirit AeroSystems employees has begun an effort to decertify its professional and technical union. Organizers say the major issue with the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace is a performance bonus plan given to non-union salaried employees that isn't in the union's contract.

About 2,375 Spirit employees are represented by SPEEA's Wichita Technical and Professional Unit. Engineers are represented by another SPEEA unit and are not affected.

Decertification organizers must collect signatures from 30 percent of the represented employees in order to petition the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election.

There are a number of reasons for the effort, said Nate Adams, a Spirit supply base analyst and one of the employees organizing the decertification effort.

"The team believes that SPEEA is an impediment to us," both in worker productivity and in company profitability, Adams said.

Being part of the union has cost workers thousands of dollars in lost bonuses, he said.

SPEEA and Spirit will begin negotiations in the next 45 to 60 days. The technical and professional unit's contract doesn't expire until July 2011, but the contract calls for the renegotiation of wages and benefits this year.

The bonus program is the union's No. 1 issue, said SPEEA Midwest director Bob Brewer. The union and the company already have discussed the bonus plan, Brewer said.

"We all have a lot of agreement on the philosophy on what the plan means to every salaried employee at Spirit," he said.

Brewer said it is frustrating that the decertification effort could impede work to get the bonus plan.

"We are going to make it happen in some way, form or function," he said.

Spirit spokeswoman Lisa Conklin said the company declined to comment.

A similar decertification effort was successful at Boeing Wichita last year. Technical and professional workers narrowly voted out SPEEA.

Boeing employees had rejected decertification and reaffirmed the union in 2004 during another effort.

(kansas.com)

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