Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics lays off another 150 workers at Fort Worth plant

FORT WORTH - An additional 150 workers at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in west Fort Worth received pink slips today, more than doubling the number of layoffs since the first of the year.

Employees at the plant have been told that their last day of work is expected to be Jan. 25, Lockheed spokesman Ken Ross confirmed in an email to the Star-Telegram.

"This is part of our normal process to continually adjust our workforce based on program and business requirements," he wrote in the email.

Ross said the latest layoffs are not related to sequestration, the looming budget cuts that are possible if Congress cannot work out a budget deal in the next month-and-a-half.

On Jan. 4, 110 workers, mostly aircraft assemblers, were laid off. At the time, Ross said the defense industry was "going through a changing environment." He then told the Star-Telegram that the company was responding to "what is happening in the industry ... we want to make sure we remain competitive."

Those affected by the first round of layoffs worked on different production lines at the factory, Ross said. The decision about which employees to lay off was dictated by union contracts.

Speculation about defense industry cuts has been widespread, and all eyes are on the nation's biggest defense program, the F-35, which is seen as a target for budget cutting in coming years.

For now, executives have said that the program should not have to cut back on production and jobs, thanks to two recent contracts.

Last month, Lockheed received a Pentagon contract guaranteeing a final installment of about $127.7 million for the fifth production lot of F-35 fighters. And then just before year's end, Lockheed and the Pentagon agreed to contracts for a sixth lot of 31 additional F-35 jets.

About 6,000 of Lockheed's 14,200 workers at the west-side complex are directly involved in F-35 development, engineering and production, and many other jobs at the plant are tied to the program.

Plans call for Lockheed to build more than 2,400 F-35s for the Air Force, Navy and Marines at a cost now estimated at $395.7 billion. But some wonder if that will be reduced if defense spending falls.

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