If the walkout by the Machinists union at Boeing does not end soon, the company could face a difficult decision. Does it proceed with the...

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If the walkout by the Machinists union at Boeing does not end soon, the company could face a difficult decision.

Does it proceed with the full “orderly shutdown” of Boeing Commercial Airplanes that Alan Mulally, chief executive of the unit, warned would follow a Machinists strike?

Or, does Boeing keep as many people working as long as possible to avoid antagonizing the rest of its work force?

The outcome is of great interest to the nearly 20,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), most of whom are in the Puget Sound area.

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Boeing is in talks with SPEEA on a contract to replace the existing pact, which expires Dec. 1.

SPEEA attorneys this week determined Boeing can temporarily lay off SPEEA members without providing a 60-day warning notice during a strike by the International Association of Machinists (IAM), District 751, according to Bill Dugovich, a SPEEA spokesman.

Such furloughs, however, would not be looked on kindly.

“In all of the previous strikes by the IAM or other (workers), we have never experienced layoffs,” he said. “It would be extremely detrimental to the long-term health of the company if they began penalizing other workers.”

No SPEEA members have been told they face layoffs, Dugovich said.

Immediately after the IAM voted Sept. 1 to go on strike, Boeing said in a statement that “all employees willing to continue working will be afforded the opportunity to do so for as long as there is meaningful work to perform.”

Boeing spokesman Chaz Bickers said the company’s position has not changed. He declined to elaborate on Boeing’s definition of “meaningful work,” or how long it will last. The 10-day-old strike shows no signs of ending.

The engineers and technical workers union has had scattered reports of Boeing managers asking SPEEA members to do Machinists’ jobs, from running machines to emptying trash cans. SPEEA has instructed members to politely decline, Dugovich said, but to do the work if ordered by managers. SPEEA leaders will take the issues up with Boeing separately.

Meanwhile, SPEEA negotiators continue to meet with Boeing. The union expects to deliver its initial contract proposal to Boeing by the end of next week.

Main negotiations between SPEEA and Boeing are due to begin Nov. 1.

David Bowermaster: 206-464-2724 or dbowermaster@seattletimes.com

Poland’s airline

orders Dreamliners

Boeing won an order for seven 787 Dreamliner airplanes valued at $910 million at list prices from LOT, Poland’s state-owned national airline.

Delivery of the planes will start in 2008, LOT Chief Executive Marek Grabarek said Wednesday. The Warsaw-based carrier will be the first European airline to put the plane into service, said Marlin Dailey, Boeing’s president of commercial-aircraft sales for Europe and Central Asia.

The airline has the option to buy an additional seven aircraft between 2011 and 2019, Boeing said.

Bloomberg News