Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sikorsky to cut more jobs. Up to 125 layoffs planned as military aircraft orders decline

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. in Big Flats is laying off between 100 and 125 workers, as the company continues to experience a lull in orders for its military helicopters.

The job cuts involve union and non-union workers at the facility, said United Auto Workers Local 1752 President William Barrett. The UAW represents the manufacturer's hourly workers. Barrett said an official announcement for workers was scheduled for Thursday afternoon at the Big Flats location.

"Our contract requires five days' notice, so the union members affected will be out the door by the end of next week," Barrett said. "Business is a little off at this point and hopefully, in the future, the company will get more work."

The latest round of layoffs are part of a restructuring plan announced late last year when Sikorsky said it was reducing its corporate-wide work force by 3 percent, Sikorsky's Communications Director Paul Jackson said in an e-mail to this newspaper.

The latest job cuts follow the loss in June of about 386 hourly and salaried positions at the Black Hawk helicopter-finishing facility on Kahler Road. At the time, almost 1,200 people worked there, but that number is now closer to 700, Barrett said

"In September and November 2011, Sikorsky announced intentions to reduce its cost structure to remain competitive and continue its vision for growth amid the tightening global business environment and reduced government defense spending," Jackson wrote in the e-mail.

"The reductions announced to employees at the Sikorsky Military Completions Center are part of that previously reported restructuring. The (facility) remains an important part of Sikorsky's military helicopter operations, and the company continues to invest in making it a world-class facility."

While Sikorsky trims its work force, the company's plans for converting the former Wings of Eagles museum building into administrative and engineering offices continue to move ahead. Many of the functions that took place at the former Schweizer Aircraft facility have been shifted to the newly renovated warplane museum, said George Miner, president of Southern Tier Economic Growth.

The cost of the renovation project totals about $12.5 million, which includes work done on the display hangar adjacent to the museum building off Sing Sing Road. Miner also sits on the county's industrial development agency, which has assisted Sikorsky in financing the expansion.

The company's troubles with its helicopter business are all part of a lingering worldwide manufacturing slump, he said.

"We've been fortunate in avoiding the bankruptcies and mortgage issues, but manufacturing is down everywhere and that's what we're seeing here," Miner said. "We'd be in worse shape if it wasn't for the natural gas industry. We have about 1,000 residents who are working in the areas where the drilling is going on."

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