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Boeing Risks 787 Program by Ignoring Outsourcing Problems, Union Says

SEATTLE --- The Boeing Company’s public acknowledgement that outsourcing is causing problems with the 787 program is lip service until action is taken to correct problems created by a global network of suppliers and inexperienced workers, according to the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001.

Officials at SPEEA and other unions, including the International Aerospace Machinists (IAM), repeatedly warned the aerospace giant that it was a mistake to part out highly complex aerospace products to inexperienced workers around the world. More than one year after a ceremonial “roll out” of a 787 shell, the same aircraft remains in the factory incomplete and missing parts from suppliers.

“Continued statements that everything is fine with the 787 global supply network just don’t fly,” said Ray Goforth, executive director of SPEEA.

Last week, the company announced plans to place full-time Boeing inspectors at key suppliers to reduce flaws and maintain quality. The announcement, reported by the Puget Sound Business Journal, said Boeing will first target about one dozen problem companies.

SPEEA’s Goforth said more inspections at suppliers escalates cost and avoid the real problem – Boeing’s great experiment to outsource large parts of the engineering and manufacturing of the next major leap in air travel failed.

“It’s time for Boeing to stop the lip service and take real action,” Goforth said. “Face the fact that the global network is a failure and bring the critical work back so the experienced employees can get the 787 back on track.”

Boeing’s original plan for the 787 called for the first flight in August 2007. By now, large sections were expected to be arriving complete in Everett. The goal was to snap the large parts together in as little as three days. Instead, the program is 18 months behind schedule with no firm date for a first flight. Earlier this month, Azerbaijan Airlines became the first airline to cancel a 787 order.

Boeing needs more than paid advertising and internal campaigns to regain the trust of customers and employees. The most recent Rittenhouse Ranking Survey of corporate candor ranked Boeing 98th, six spots below Exxon Mobil. The annual survey evaluated 100 Fortune 500 companies and CEOs for fair, open and sincere communications.

Facing a strike by the IAM and preparing to open contract talks with SPEEA in October, Boeing last week launched a radio advertising campaign in the Puget Sound region aimed at convincing employees and the public of its good intentions. The advertising bolsters an intense internal workplace campaign aimed at employees and their managers.

“Instead of thanking and rewarding employees for correcting the errors of suppliers and management, Boeing is banking profits and shifting costs onto employees,” Goforth said.

On October 28, SPEEA begins main table negotiations with Boeing for 21,000 employees in Washington, Kansas, Oregon, Utah and California. Negotiations begin in May for 700 engineers at Spirit AeroSystems, Inc. in Wichita, Kan.

A local union of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), SPEEA represents more than 24,731 aerospace professionals at Boeing, Spirit, Triumph Composite Systems, Inc., in Spokane, Wash., and at BAE Systems, Inc., in Irving, Texas.

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Boeing Risks 787 by Refusing to Deal with Outsourcing Problems, Says SPEEA