Boeing Commercial Airplanes Layoffs Puzzle Labor

 - January 30, 2009, 6:05 AM

Boeing’s announcement on January 9 that it planned to lay off some 4,500 employees within its Commercial Airplanes business starting in April might not have come as a surprise given the economic depths to which the airline business expects to sink this year. But as the company scrambles to fly the 787 by the end of this year’s second quarter after the program suffered its fourth major delay, the union that represents its engineers has questioned the wisdom of the timing. Three weeks later Boeing CEO James McNerney revealed plans to slash 10,000 positions throughout the company this year.

“These announced layoffs are puzzling,” said Ray Goforth, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA). “With the company struggling to overcome problems from its failed outsourcing business model, this type of prophylactic layoff is counterproductive.”

The first announcement came as more than 23 percent of union engineers were working 12 or more hours of overtime each week in an effort to accelerate progress on the 787 and 747-8, according to SPEEA.

For its part, Boeing called the cuts “part of an effort to ensure competitiveness and control costs in the face of a weakening global economy,” and that the BCA cuts would not involve positions directly related to aircraft production.

“No one is as keen on getting those airplanes going as we are,” a Boeing spokesman told AIN. “We wouldn’t do anything to slow that down.”

Planning to start sending 60-day layoff notices on February 20, Boeing still hasn’t identified specific job functions targeted for cuts, however.