Boeing announced to its blue-collar workers Friday that they will get an annual bonus later this month equal to 1.2% of their gross pay in 2020, including overtime.
The average hourly wage for the local Machinists as of last August was $35.88 and hour, which translates to a base annual wage of almost $75,000. So without any overtime factored in, the average bonus would be just shy of $900.
The International Association of Machinists (IAM) union at Boeing, which now has just fewer than 25,000 local members, has a separate bonus plan with the payout based on measures of safety, quality and productivity. For 2020, they were given the maximum percentage for safety, but nothing for the other two metrics.
That rankled the membership, said IAM District 751 president Jon Holden in an interview Friday, because other employees saw the structure of their incentive plans adjusted to make sure they got a significant bonus despite the collapse of Boeing’s business in 2020.
“That’s a positive thing, to reward people for their hard work,” said Holden. “They just failed to do that for the IAM. It’s disappointing.”
“We knew it was going to be a tough year, with the 737 MAX grounding and shutting down the line as we went into the pandemic. All of it was out of our control,” he said. “We still went into work every day. We risked our health, working in close proximity. We focused on safety to make sure we could continue to work.”
“They should have figured out a way to adjust our bonus plan to ensure it would pay out to reward our members for their hard work,” Holden added.
The bonuses for other employees and managers are based on financial metrics, mostly profit. But last February, Boeing’s leadership restructured those bonuses, knowing that profits in 2020 were likely to be substantially down because of the grounding of the 737 MAX. As it turned out, the company lost a record $12 billion in 2020.
But management did not change the IAM bonus plan to account for the fact that, no matter how hard anyone worked, productivity in building jets was going to be predictably low.
The change in the metrics meant the non-IAM bonuses were tied to the timing of the first delivery of a 737 MAX after its ungrounding. This resulted in a payout to a Commercial Airplanes nonunion employee with a high individual performance score equal to 3.5% of gross annual salary. A more average score would net a 2.9% bonus.
For the engineers and technical staff in the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace union (SPEEA), those in the Commercial Airplanes unit got a bonus equal to 2.9% of gross salary while those in the Defense and Space unit got 4.3% of gross salary.
In a message posted on the IAM website, Holden commended the union’s members “for being the stability during an unstable year.”
“You all deserve better than this,” he wrote.
Machinists will get the bonus in their Feb. 25 paycheck.