SPEEA: Pilot Contract Talks Illustrate Boeing Safety Culture Problems

SEATTLE--()--The union for Flight Technical and Safety Pilots with Boeing’s Flight Operations Group says it has first-hand experience of the kinds of safety-culture problems an expert panel reported on earlier this week.

That highly critical report on Feb. 26 from the Federal Aviation Administration said there was a “disconnect” between public commitments to safety and quality made by senior executives at Boeing and the situations faced by Boeing employees in the workplace.

SPEEA, the union that represents some two-dozen technical and safety pilots at Boeing, says it is experiencing that as it tries to negotiate a new contract for the pilots.

The SPEEA-represented Technical and Safety Pilots perform three main functions for Boeing:

  • They are the company’s liaisons to the Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board and global aviation safety regulators.
  • They work closely with Boeing customers to ensure the airlines have comprehensive safe operating plans in place.
  • They are on-call consultants available to help flight crews understand the nuances of safely flying Boeing aircraft.

The collective bargaining agreement for these pilots expires Monday.

The most contentious issue in these negotiations is pay.

“Boeing’s last proposal is to pay the Tech and Safety pilots 28.6% less than the Boeing corporate pilots who chauffeur executives around,” said Ray Goforth, SPEEA Executive Director. “With the entire world focused on the Boeing safety culture, it was truly startling to see how differently Boeing leadership values the safe operation of its products versus the comfort of executives.”

Talks have not gone well, SPEEA said, with Boeing negotiators failing to show up for the last two scheduled bargaining sessions this week.

In another strange turn, Boeing asked SPEEA’s negotiators to sign a retroactive Non-Disclosure Agreement so that the union couldn’t tell its members how much they were being underpaid compared to their peers. SPEEA declined; Goforth called the request “weird.”

“To put this in context,” he said, “Boeing has systematically hollowed out the SPEEA Pilot Instructors Unit, replacing valued Boeing expertise with contractors. The resulting degradation in expert advice given to Boeing’s airline customers is another example of the safety-culture problem highlighted by the FAA.”

Boeing starts talks March 8 with the International Association of Machinists on a new contract for more than 32,000 Pacific Northwest production workers. That’s four days after the contract for the SPEEA-represented Flight Technical and Safety Pilots expires.

SPEEA represents more than 19,000 engineers, scientists, technical workers and pilots at Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems facilities in Washington, Kansas, California, Oregon and Utah.


Media contact: Bryan Corliss (425) 327-3512


Media contact: Bryan Corliss (425) 327-3512