Boeing locks out its private firefighters around Seattle over pay disputes

Boeing has locked out its private firefighters who protect its Seattle-area aircraft factories and brought in replacements after the latest round of negotiations with the firefighters’ union failed to reach an agreement on wages.

The company said Saturday that it had locked out about 125 firefighters and a facility about 170 miles (275 kilometers) away in central Washington. Firefighters act as first responders to fires and medical emergencies and can call local fire departments for assistance.

“Despite extensive discussions through an impartial federal mediator, we have not reached an agreement with the union,” Boeing said in a statement. “We have now locked out members of the bargaining unit and have fully implemented our emergency plan with highly trained firefighters taking over the work of (union) members.”

In a statement Saturday, the International Association of Firefighters union said Boeing’s lockout was intended to “punish, intimidate and force its firefighters to accept a contract that undervalues ​​their work.”

“Boeing put corporate greed over safety and decided to lock out our members. “This has unnecessarily compromised the security of facilities in Washington,” said Edward Kelly, IAFF general president.

Boeing stressed that the lockout will have “no impact” on its operations.

The labor dispute comes as Boeing grapples with mounting losses – more than $24 billion since the start of 2019 – and faces renewed scrutiny over the quality and safety of its manufacturing since January on an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max, flying over Oregon, a door plug flew out.

Boeing and the union remain far apart in their negotiations, which have been going on for two and a half months. Each side accuses the other of unfaithful negotiations.

The Arlington, Virginia-headquartered company said Saturday that its latest offer includes across-the-board annual pay increases and a new pay structure for firefighters on 24-hour shift schedules, which would result in an average pay increase of about $21,000 per year . Boeing said firefighters received an average of $91,000 last year.

The union, which claims Boeing has saved billions of dollars in insurance costs by deploying its own firefighters on site, has said it will seek wage increases of 40 to 50 percent. Boeing’s proposed pay increase would still result in crews earning 20% ​​to 30% less than firefighters in cities where Boeing plants are located, the union said.

A key sticking point is Boeing’s demand that firefighters wait 19 years instead of 14 years to reach the highest pay scale. The union is proposing five years.

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