Boeing technical engineers ratify four-year labour deal

SEATTLE (REUTERS) - Boeing Co technical workers voted by a wide margin to ratify a new four-year labour agreement with the company, ending the possibility of a strike that could have cut production at a critical time for the aircraft maker.

A strike by just technical workers could have slowed or even halted production of Boeing airplanes, with the workers key to solving engineering issues on the factory floor.

It also could have complicated a wide-ranging review of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner by the Federal Aviation Administration and a probe by the National Transportation Safety Board, after charred batteries on two 787s prompted a grounding of the entire fleet in January.

Last month, a second, larger Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) bargaining unit, representing 15,500 professional engineers, narrowly accepted a similar contract.

"The votes by technical workers and engineers in recent weeks will allow us to come together and focus on the challenges and opportunities we face this year," Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner said in a statement.

Members of the technical workers bargaining unit voted 4,244 to approve the contract and 654 voted to reject it, with two abstentions, union representatives in Seattle said after votes were tallied.

The decision announced on Monday ended a contract negotiation that began nearly a year ago.

Last month, the technical workers, a bargaining unit with about 7,500 members, narrowly rejected the same contract and authorised union leaders to call a strike.

The professional engineers also authorised the union to call a strike, but that decision became moot because the contract they approved prohibited workers from striking while a contract is in effect.

That would have meant the technical workers would have struck alone had they walked out.

The contracts covering both groups provide 5 per cent annual pay raises in each of the next four years, up from 3.5 per cent for technical workers in Boeing's original offer.