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Originally published Friday, October 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Boeing and SPEEA begin serious discussion

Union negotiators representing Boeing engineers and technical workers said a meeting Thursday with management's negotiating team was the...

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

Union negotiators representing Boeing engineers and technical workers said a meeting Thursday with management's negotiating team was the first to engage in real discussion. The talks were "heated and confrontational" at times and agreement was confined to minor, uncontroversial issues.

"The only positive thing from the meeting was that they gave us reasons they are saying no to a few things," said Ray Goforth, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) in an interview Friday.

Goforth said that the two sides did tentatively agree on a list of things, but that these were all cosmetic, clerical or items that will be unchanged from the last contract. "None of them are substantive," he said.

Still, heated discussion counted as progress from no discussion, he said.

In a message to company managers about the meeting Boeing's chief negotiator, Doug Kight, expressed cautious optimism.

"At times the talks have been difficult — as is the case in most contract negotiations — but we also believe that we have made substantive progress," Kight wrote. "That said, a lot of hard work remains to be done."

SPEEA is negotiating contracts covering nearly 21,000 workers in Washington, Oregon, Utah and California.

The two sides begin full-time, intensive main-table talks at the Seatac Doubletree Inn on Oct. 28

Negotiators hope to have a proposal ready by mid-November for mail-in voting. Existing contracts expire Dec. 1.

Boeing commercial aircraft production workers, who are represented by the International Association of Machinists, have been on strike since Sept. 6.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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