Boeing’s locked-out firefighters claim safety is at risk

Boeing firefighters have been locked out by the aerospace company for six days now, as a result of a contract dispute.

Last week, negotiations between Boeing and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local I-66, representing 125 firefighters at some of the company’s commercial plane factories, reached an impasse.

Boeing decided to lock out its firefighters on May 4 and opted to hire replacement workers instead. This action was taken after the workers rejected the pay offers, which were deemed by their union as being 20% below the average compensation provided at other fire departments in the Puget Sound region.

Lt. Jon Riggsby, a firefighter and union official, shared from the picket line in Auburn on Friday that he has been with Boeing for approximately seven years and in the fire service for almost 20 years.

According to him, his crew takes care of almost everything. He expressed concern about the potential compromise of safety for Boeing employees.

According to Riggsby, our job involves a wide range of tasks. Similar to municipal fire departments, we respond to various emergencies such as EMS calls, fire incidents, and provide assistance in hazmat situations and rescue operations. Additionally, we have a dedicated group of firefighters who work closely with the Boeing Starliner Program, providing support and undergoing specialized training with NASA for the purpose of safely removing astronauts from the capsule.

According to Riggsby, the main issue revolves around pay.

According to the spokesperson, the new recruits join the team with a starting wage of $25 per hour. However, these individuals are not considered entirely new firefighters as they already possess a minimum of one year of professional experience or three years of volunteer service.

According to the Associated Press on May 4, Boeing has presented a compelling package.

Boeing expressed its commitment to reaching an agreement in a recent news release, stating, “We are dedicated to securing an agreement that benefits all parties involved.” The company emphasized that its offer includes substantial pay increases and enhanced benefits for employees. Boeing urged the union to allow its employees to vote on the offer, highlighting that it was presented prior to the lockout.

According to Riggsby, the contract offer information provided by Boeing does not align with the actual reality.

“They claim that our average annual income is $91,000, and they are proposing a raise that would increase it to $111,000,” he stated. “However, only 28% of our employees are currently at the highest pay level, which is $85,000. So, I’m confused about their calculations.”

According to Riggsby, the current timeline to reach the top scale at our company is 14 years. However, the company is now considering extending this timeline to 19 years, which essentially spans an entire career.

According to him, firefighters in other departments can reach top pay scale in approximately four years.

There have been no announcements regarding any further discussions between the two parties.

Riggsby expressed his disappointment, stating that Boeing claims to have a solid backup plan in place. However, in reality, this plan seems to involve bringing in employees from non-union Boeing sites throughout the United States to assist with the workload. Riggsby emphasized that both the managers and the flown-in personnel are tirelessly working day and night without any breaks.

President Joe Biden took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to urge both parties to resume negotiations. He emphasized the importance of collective bargaining, stating that it benefits both employers and employees. Expressing his concern over reports of IAFF I-66 members being locked out by Boeing, he encouraged all parties involved to return to the table. The President stressed the need for a mutually beneficial agreement that addresses the firefighters’ rightful compensation and benefits while ensuring Boeing’s success.

Joe Biden will be making a visit to Seattle on Friday afternoon for a series of campaign events.

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MBS Staff
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