Boeing plans to cut 5,000 more jobs

By David Bowermaster
Seattle Times aerospace reporter


Washington State - Boeing plans to announce today that it will cut another 5,000 jobs by the end of the year from its beleaguered commercial-airplanes unit. The news comes despite a recent flurry of big orders and signs of a recovery in air travel.

The Boeing division, headquartered in the Puget Sound area, has already laid off nearly 35,000 people nationwide since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Alan Mulally strongly hinted at the Paris Air Show last month that more layoffs could be on the way.

Nonetheless, the size of the latest cuts is likely to come as a rude surprise to many workers who thought the worst was over. Some of the 5,000 workers are scheduled to receive 60-day layoff notices tomorrow.

It was not immediately clear how many of the new job cuts, which will be a mix of layoffs and attrition, will occur in Washington state, according to people familiar with the company's plans.

Since Boeing, now based in Chicago, began trimming jobs nearly two years ago, 17,727 Puget Sound-area workers have been laid off, and another 4,000 positions have been lost through attrition.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes had 93,000 employees on Sept. 6, 2001. By the end of this year, that work force will have been cut nearly in half.

Boeing officials would not comment last night on the job cuts.

"If and when we update our employment forecast we would strive to inform our employees first along with other key stakeholders," Boeing spokesman Peter Conte said last night.

Union officials said last night that they had not yet heard from Boeing about the job cuts.

Mark Blondin, president of International Association of Machinists Local 571, had not been informed of the company's plans as of 5 p.m. yesterday, said Machinists spokeswoman Connie Kelliher.

Charles Bofferding, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), likewise had no official word from Boeing.

Bill Dugovich, a spokesman for the engineers' union, said it had received numerous phone calls from reporters last night about the new round of layoffs, but nothing from Boeing.

"If this is true, we have very serious concerns about the Boeing Co.'s commitment to their employees, especially when this information leaks out," said Dugovich. "This is a heck of a way to treat your partners."

But Mulally said last month that if production falls further, more jobs would have to go.

"There's a definite possibility we could adjust the employment downward again," Mulally said then. "If it (travel and airline finances) doesn't recover like we're talking about, then clearly there's a possibility we could lower the employment further."

Signs of trouble emerged earlier this week when Continental Airlines announced it would defer delivery of $2.5 billion worth of Boeing jets.

Yet many Puget Sound workers had begun to hope the worst was behind them. Positive news from other Boeing customers fueled their optimism.

AirTran Airways placed an order for up to 110 Boeing 737s and 717s earlier this month, and All Nippon Airways finalized an order for 45 737s at the end of June. A U.S. Air Force order for 100 Boeing 767 refueling tankers also cleared the White House last week and awaits congressional approval.

But many airlines continue to post huge losses, and the financial impacts of SARS are only now beginning to be documented.

David Bowermaster: 206-464-2724


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