WICHITA, Kan. (Jan. 4) — The union representing engineers at The Boeing Company is calling on the company to meet all commitments to employees here who worked diligently to help secure the $35 billion U.S. Air Force KC-767 tanker program only to learn this morning their plant is being shuttered and their work is going elsewhere.
A meeting between union and company leaders is being scheduled to start effects bargaining for the 550 engineers at the site represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001.
“We began talking to Boeing immediately,” said SPEEA President Tom McCarty. “We will be working very hard to find the best outcome for the people we represent at Boeing Wichita.”
While noting there are not a lot of answers yet, McCarty said the union is getting the pieces in place to do everything it can to help members transfer to new jobs, relocate or meet other career needs. McCarty said the company also needs to pay attention to retaining the skills of its Wichita engineers.
“These engineers are experts in their fields and Boeing can’t afford to lose those skills,” McCarty said.
In September, Wichita engineers agreed to a two-year contract extension with Boeing. Originally set to expire Dec. 2, 2011, the contract locks in terms through Dec. 2, 2013.
Wichita Boeing was slated to do the final modifications on the KC-767 tanker after the planes were assembled in Everett, Washington. During an all-employee meeting at the Wichita plant this morning, Boeing officials said tanker work will land in Everett, Washington. Other programs from Wichita will go to Oklahoma City and San Antonio, Texas. Boeing said the major transition will begin in the third quarter of 2012.
In addition to refueling tankers, recent work at the Wichita plant includes B-52 modifications, maintaining Air Force One, and the 737 Wedgetail program.
SPEEA represents 550 engineers at Wichita Boeing. The union also represents 3,000 engineers, technical workers and other professionals at Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita.
A local of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), SPEEA represents 25,400 aerospace professionals at Boeing, Spirit AeroSystems in Kansas, Triumph Composite Systems, Inc., in Spokane, Wash., and BAE Systems, Inc., in Irving, Texas.