Safety crisis | Boeing workers & union reps say its largest plant is in “panic mode”

Boeing workers & union reps say its largest plant is in “panic mode”

Workers and union representatives at Boeing’s largest plant in Everett, Washington have accused managers of pressuring staff to keep quiet over quality issues.

Boeing has been under a huge amount of scrutiny followed by a series of incidents and investigations into the safety of its aircraft since January, when a panel blew out mid-flight.

The event triggered an investigation from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), which had also launched earlier investigations into Boeing’s safety culture manufacturer was also subject to earlier investigations after two fatal crashes involving Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in 2018 and 2019.

The investigation into January’s blowout identified numerous quality control breaches, echoing the findings of the earlier investigation into the two crashes, which concluded in February.

The review revealed many employees “did not demonstrate knowledge of Boeing’s enterprise-wide safety culture efforts, nor its purpose of procedures” and found a “disconnect between Boeing’s senior management and other members of the organization” on safety culture, with workers reportedly fearing retaliation for reporting safety concerns.

Boeing revealed in April that use of its whistleblowing portal has soared by 500% compared to the previous year, but one worker at its largest factory says it is in “panic mode” as managers have “finally figured out that they got more people that have no idea what’s going on, than people that do”.

The mechanic told the Guardian the plant is “full” of faulty jets, many of which are flown over from another site in South Carolina. “There is no way in God’s green earth I would want to be a pilot in South Carolina flying those from South Carolina to here,” the worker stated, requesting anonymity due to concerns of retaliation.

The staffer reported management at the plant will “hound” mechanics to keep quiet about possible quality issues.

The final assembly of the 787 model was earlier moved from Everett to the South Carolina site. Some workers and union officials have claimed the move was anti-union.

Boeing did not respond to the Guardian’s requests for comment on the company’s position on unions or quality concerns.

The embattled company was given 90 days in response to the investigation into January’s blowout, which it submitted on May 30, welcoming 53 recommendations from the FAA.

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Rich Plunkett, Director of Strategic Development for the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (Speea), IFPTE Local 2001, which represents over 17,000 Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems employees, alleged a “very robust union-containment strategy” at Boeing causes the company’s broader safety issues.

Plunkett has advised Boeing to implement “meaningful non-retaliation policies.”

The aforementioned mechanic also suggests a further issue is how managers are selected. “The team leader isn’t picked by his skill on the airplane – he is picked by his relationship with another manager or another person,” they claimed.

Boeing has said it picks managers based on experience as well as skill set, performance, and leadership capabilities.

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