Boeing responds to fear that some retirees could lose medical coverage

Sep 26, 2012

Some Boeing retirees fear they could be in danger of losing their medical coverage under a new contract the company has proposed to its engineers' union, SPEEA.

Update 9-26 – Boeing sent out the following response this morning by email: "Boeing has no plans to eliminate retiree medical benefits for current retirees. If we’d had the opportunity to discuss our proposal with the union, we could have clarified that we did not intend to change the status quo with respect to retiree medical benefits. Regrettably, SPEEA has chosen to sensationalize the issue and cause unnecessary concern."

Nevertheless, retirees like Mark Slack are concerned. He retired from Boeing after 37 years in February. He’s 63 years old, so under the current engineers’ contract, he qualifies for the company’s medical coverage that bridges the gap until he reaches 65 and can get Medicare. But now he’s worried he could lose that health insurance.

The reason is that Boeing’s proposal to SPEEA has language that suggests the company could drop coverage for people who have already retired. Slack says he feels betrayed.

"That’s money that had that benefit not been there, it would have been converted to wages for me," Slack said. "So from my perspective, this is deferred compensation and they’re reneging on this deal. I am livid."

Slack says he wouldn’t have retired if he’d known this was going to happen. The company originally declined to comment beyond a statement online. In it, Boeing says its proposal “contains nothing that suggests Boeing plans to eliminate medical benefits for current retirees.”

Matt Kempf works on benefits issues for SPEEA. He says retirees have little recourse.

"They’re no longer employees, so they don’t get a vote on the contract," Kempf said. "They don’t have a voice."

SPEEA recommends that Boeing engineers and technicians reject the contract – votes will be tallied next Monday.