Boeing chief: shift from pensions will improve competitivenessNews added by Benefits Pro on April 25, 2014

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By Lisa Barron

The demise of traditional worker pensions at Boeing will help to make the company more competitive, says CEO Jim McNerney.

The share of Boeing employees not covered by a traditional fixed-pension plan will soon reach 80 percent, up from 15 percent last year, McNerney said during the first-quarter conference call Wednesday, reports the Puget Sound Business Journal.

The company’s Machinist union members in Washington and Missouri, as well as the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, SPEEA, recently ratified new 10-year contracts that ended Boeing’s fixed-pension plan in favor of company contributions to a 401(k) retirement savings plan.

“These unprecedented agreements essentially ensure a decade of labor continuity for us and our customers, with economic and productivity incentives that will improve our global competitiveness,” McNerney said.

“The changes are strategic and fundamental to the way we are restructuring the company—to reduce risk, ensure the health of our balance sheet and enhance competitive position, all while providing employees with attractive and competitive benefits and driving long-term shareholder value.”

Many local Machinists, however, are not so sanguine. The new contracts were approved with just a 51 percent margin in January, even after Boeing reportedly told workers that it would build the new 777X jetliner somewhere else if they didn’t vote in favor of the change.

Jon Holden, the new president of Seattle-based Machinists District Lodge 51, told the Business Journal recently that if the National Labor Relations Board overturned the vote on the grounds that it violated federal law, he would support another ballot.

“If it’s overturned, we’ll be at square one and we’ll go after it again,” he said. “It’s well-known that I did not want to take this to a vote, and I asked people to vote no.”

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