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Appeals Court Sides With Spirit In Labor Dispute

A federal appeals court sided Tuesday with Spirit AeroSystems in a labor dispute stemming from the way the Wichita-based aircraft parts maker evaluates employee performance.

At issue in the dispute is the contention by The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace that it was not consulted when Spirit changed its method of evaluating employees. In response, Spirit denied the union grievance, arguing its collective bargaining agreement excluded disputes about employee evaluations from the usual grievance process.

It also contended the union's allegations were invalid.

SPEEA then demanded arbitration. After reaching an impasse about the availability, the union sued in federal court in a move to force Spirit to arbitrate the grievance over the job evaluations.

U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten granted summary judgment last year to Spirit, finding that the parties' collective bargaining agreement does not provide for arbitration over disputes about the employee performance process. Tuesday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

In its ruling, the court found that the grievance procedure outlined in the labor contract applies only to individuals rather than the class-wide dispute brought by the union. The court also agreed with Spirit that the only exception is a lockout, which was not the situation in this case.