Boeing discriminating against older engineers?

Last week, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) and International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 2001 charged Boeing with age discrimination. The union acts for SPEEA-represented engineers and filed third-party charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Washington State Human Rights Commission.

According to the SPEEA website, “evidence is overwhelming that Boeing hatched and implemented a scheme to engage in age discrimination,” says Ray Goforth, SPEEA executive director. “The scheme involved secret manipulation of the retention ranking factors used to determine layoff order for employees. This illegal manipulation doubled, tripled, and quadrupled layoff vulnerability for older employees compared to previous years. The company then announced a series of work movements and reorganizations to implement the manipulated layoff order.”

Read the whole Charge of Discrimination at the SPEEA website.

It’s projected that Boeing will layoff several thousand engineers by 2016.

Of course, Boeing and unions have long been at it: Here's a blog entry from my esteemed colleague in 2011 detailing objections to Boeing's move to South Carolina production as a way to avoid union strikes in Washington state. Earlier this year, that conflict ended when the International Association of Machinists District 751 voted by a slim margin to approve a contract through 2024 that replaces a pension plan for 33,000 machinists with a 401(k)-based plan.

Here’s the rub: In the current tussle, Boeing says that its move to "diversify the engineering workforce" merely reflects changes in its business. In contrast, the union claims that Boeing is dismantling and disbursing their experienced commercial-engineering workforce for what seem to be “laughably superficial” business reasons … but the real reason it’s moving work to Russia, India, and domestic ‘centers of excellence’ — mostly non-union locations in Alabama, Missouri and South Carolina — is for the “wholesale purge of Boeing’s older workforce.”

But — an obvious observation here — it’s exactly those business objectives (especially to drive profit) that are more easily met with the purging of more-expensive (but non-executive) staff.

Discuss this Blog Entry 5

on Aug 2, 2014

Boeing's engineers are not the problem there.
Boeing's flaky management has long outlived its usefulness. Boeing itself has only survived because it inherited Douglas products and pragmatic designs. Anything Boeing designed itself nowadays rarely works properly first time around.
It steals good ideas from other companies and calls them its own.
De Havilland Canada is a prime example then when Boeing loses interest it puts the company up for sale to its European competitor.
It's not a good example of a free enterprise company. It is subsidised to the hilt through defence contracts.
If there are protests over this comment, it is not only a perception there is evidence that Boeing manipulates markets to sell airplanes...the DeHavilland Dash 8 is a good example of that kind of market manipulation during the Boeing episode....thankfully, it's not a Boeing design it's a De Havilland Company of Canada's design and that's why it stands on its own right.
At the end of the Cold War Boeing laid off 7600 workers...they weren't needed anymore they said. A few years later it tried to woo them back because Boeing was spending billions in penalty clauses for aircraft it couldn't deliver. A Seattle professor blasted them for a lack of business sense telling them that if they'd retained the 7600 at the time, they would have made profits instead of loss write offs.
Boeing employs lots of people but it doesn't cover up the warts which show.

on Jan 2, 2015

I think a point of clarification in an otherwise informative article: Onex was referred to as an aerospace company. It is not. Onex is a Canadian private equity investment firm based in Toronto.

Just this last week, the firm sold its remaining shares of the post-Boeing division, renamed Spirit AeroSystems.

Onex paid $950 million for the Boeing division in 2005 and invested $375 million of equity. In the nine years of its investment in Spirit, Onex has realized an amazing return on investment of 201 percent each year.

on Jan 17, 2015

Having worked the last 10 yrs or so in Aerospace I was laid off in September. Just turning 60 I have found it increasingly difficult to get hired. The fact is outsourcing is becoming increasingly common in aerospace to reduce costs. The use of cheaper labor, be it younger, less experienced, or even foreign has become the preferred choice to cut costs. I know of one company (won't mention names) that in recent years had to coax many seniors out of retirement to access that experience to get an older product line back in production. Also Boeing has experienced serious problems with Quality control. Sometimes the tried and true methods (and people) are still the best value.
lost by gain their experiencethe lack of experience.

on May 9, 2016

thanks for this information

on Nov 5, 2016

we always have the same problem with the age of the employees, i totally agree with the article!!

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Elisabeth Eitel

Elisabeth is Senior Editor of Machine Design magazine. She has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Fenn College at Cleveland State University. Over the last decade, Elisabeth has worked as a...
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