Thursday, January 12, 2017

Boeing offers voluntary layoffs to engineers in North Charleston, elsewhere

Boeing Co. plans to offer voluntary layoffs to engineers company-wide this month, including workers at its North Charleston facilities, as the aerospace giant begins to enact cost-cutting measures first outlined to employees before the holidays.

The company will offer the voluntary layoffs to its engineers at South Carolina, Washington state and California locations. It has not said how many jobs it plans to trim.

"We don't share specific targets," Boeing South Carolina spokeswoman Lori Gunter said.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said the company also "will aggressively reduce overall spending in 2017 in non-labor areas so we can meet our current commitments and invest in our future."

The company also will continue to focus on matching employment levels to business and market requirements, Alder said.

"Employment reductions will come through a combination of attrition, leaving open positions unfilled where appropriate, and offering a VLO program," he said, referring to voluntary layoffs. "Where needed and in some circumstances, we may also need to use involuntary layoffs."

This is the second time in less than a year that Boeing has asked engineers at its North Charleston businesses to take voluntary severance. In April, the company offered voluntary layoffs to 200 engineers at the 787 Dreamliner assembly campus at Charleston International Airport and at Propulsion South Carolina, which makes engine parts for the 737-MAX in Palmetto Commerce Park. The company has not said how many accepted the buyout offer.

Boeing - one of the Charleston region's largest employers - has trimmed more than 650 jobs over the past year, reporting a workforce of 7,609 full-time workers and contractors as of Dec. 22. Company-wide, roughly 9,000 jobs have been cut in recent months, leaving a workforce of 150,540 people.

The news comes weeks after Kevin McAllister, the new CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, and retiring division CEO Ray Conner said in a memo to employees that slowing sales and increased competition with Airbus will force further cost-cutting in the new year.

“We will continue working aggressively ... to reduce non-labor costs,” the message stated. “We will need to continue to reduce the size of our workforce next year.”

Alder said similar announcements will be coming for other work groups as plans are finalized.

“We’ll be notifying employees as different areas and functions ... finalize their plans,” he said.

Boeing delivered a record 137 Dreamliners in 2016, but sales of the wide-body plane have slowed in recent years and the company has been in a price war with Airbus as both companies compete for orders. Boeing has a backlog of about 700 Dreamliners.


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