January 16, 2009 Volume 110 Number 2

Boeing to lay off 4,500 workers

Boeing Co. said Jan. 9 that it will lay off 4,500 workers at its Commercial Airplanes unit.

According to a memo sent to all department employees, many of the reductions will be in the form of overhead functions, as well as normal attrition and a reduction in non-Boeing labor. Layoff notices will be issued Feb. 20.

The cuts are expected to occur primarily in Washington State, where the Commercial Airplanes Division builds widebody planes such as the 747 in Everett and the 737 jets in Renton. Boeing officials said the workforce will be reduced to 63,500 workers — the same level of employees as in early 2008.

In Gresham, where Boeing employs some 1,200 members of Machinists Lodge 63, it was unknown how many jobs would be eliminated.

“We got the memo, too,” said Bob Petroff, directing business representative of Machinists District Lodge 24.

Petroff said specific job classifications or numbers have not been defined, and that the memo was sent to all employees in the division — both represented and non-represented. “We don’t anticipate a huge impact here,” he said.

Machinist District Lodge 751 President Tom Wroblewski urged Boeing to “do the right thing” by releasing contract workers who are doing maintenance and facilities work.

“We believe Boeing has many other options available, and we will push them to retain their valued employees,” Wroblewski said. “When Boeing provides exact details on how many IAM members and what job codes are affected, we will issue a more comprehensive statement and present Boeing with additional alternatives to preserve these jobs,”

Boeing has said layoffs will depend on skill sets. Spokesman Tim Healy said contract workers who have skills critical to producing airplanes will not be let go.

The union said no airplane orders have been canceled at this point and that Boeing is continuing to hire production workers.

Wroblewski said 32 new Machinists have been added to the payroll in January.

Boeing said the 58-day Machinists’ strike last fall hurt its total yearly delivery of commercial airplanes, with the company reporting 375 planes delivered in 2008, down from 441 a year earlier.

Healy said the intent is to keep production lines rolling, while cutting costs.

“We’re going to be focused on overhead positions that aren’t directly involved in producing airplanes,” he said. “We don’t anticipate a change in our rate of production, we don’t want to impact development programs like 787 and adversely impact the delivery schedule they’re trying to meet."

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