SEATTLE, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- The head of the engineering employees union at Boeing Co. says "there is a very high chance of a strike" in the new year, after suspension of contract talks.
Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen announced Wednesday talks between Boeing and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace were being suspended for the remainder of 2012, at the request of a mediator, for a cooling-off period.
"In the interim, the FMCS will be in discussion with the parties to schedule resumption of negotiations," Cohen said in a statement.
SPEEA Executive Director Ray Goforth said the union has been preparing for a strike, and could fund a 60-day walkout -- longer, if necessary, The Seattle Times reported Saturday.
"I think there is a very high chance of a strike," Goforth said.
Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said the union's "rhetoric is not doing anybody any good," the newspaper said.
The company has offered raises of 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent each year for four years but the union is pushing for 6 percent a year for three years. Boeing is proposing increases in employee contributions to healthcare coverage that the union says would amount to a 12 percent hike.
In addition, Boeing proposes to keep new hires out of its pension system in favor of 401(k) plans. The union rejects that, saying it would reduce retirement benefits 40 percent.