News Column

Boeing May Cut White-collar Jobs

March 26, 2013

Dominic Gates

Boeing

Boeing may cut hundreds of white-collar jobs in the Puget Sound region this year in several restructuring and cost-cutting moves.

The company is considering moving some engineering support of airline customers from here to Long Beach, Calif.

Separately, the jet-maker plans to move some IT support work from the Puget Sound region and from Southern California to St. Louis and Charleston, S.C., with some employees asked to move and up to 10 percent of the group to be laid off.

In addition, last Friday a group of defense-side software engineers were laid off in Kent.

Boeing also handed out 60-day layoff notices last week to 59 more defense-side employees represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA).

The company's blue-collar workforce last week learned Boeing would shrink the ranks of machinists by more than 2,000 this year, including about 800 layoffs.

Boeing's white-collar workforce in the region will also lose some jobs -- though the process will be more piecemeal.

Engineering work may move

Earlier this month, managers in the Boeing Commercial Airplane Services (CAS) unit told employees the company may transfer from Everett to Long Beach the engineering support provided to airlines operating planes that are no longer produced, such as the 757 or the 737 classic jets.

SPEEA Executive Director Ray Goforth said his members are concerned that hundreds of CAS jobs are at stake.

CAS Vice President Lynne Thompson sent a message to all employees in the airline customer-support group confirming the "potential placement of some out-of-production work statement outside of the Puget Sound."

Thompson said Boeing is seeking to increase efficiency and to make room for support of future airplane models.

Boeing spokeswoman Jill Langer said no details are yet available on that work transfer because "at this point, they are just doing studies."

IT work moving

Last Thursday, Boeing's Chicago-based chief information officer, Kim Hammonds, and her vice presidents told employees in the company's IT support group of a new three-year restructuring plan.

This group, between 700 and 800 people companywide, provides desktop computer and phone support throughout Boeing's facilities as well as direct support within programs.

Hammonds conveyed that the plan will see some work transferred from the Puget Sound region and Southern California to two new "centers of excellence" that will be created in St. Louis and Charleston.

No numbers yet

Boeing spokesman Andrew Favreau confirmed some work will be moved, but said "how much of that work will shift from Puget Sound we don't know at this point."? Boeing has approximately 7,900 IT workers, he said.

A Boeing document obtained by The Seattle Times -- an FAQ for employees about the new strategy -- states there will be some people transferred and some laid off.

The reductions will affect "5 -- 10 percent"?of the IT group over the next few years, with the first layoffs coming in May and September, it says. Favreau said the figure also includes attrition.

The document also states Boeing expects to increase its outsourcing of IT work by about 5 percent.

The FAQ nevertheless insists that "we will continue to have a large percentage of our workforce on the West Coast." But employees fear hundreds of jobs here will disappear.

"We feel more betrayed than angry," said a person who heard the presentation Thursday and who asked not to be identified.

This person also said the presentation indicated some employees will be reclassified to lower-level positions.

"That's true," said Boeing's Favreau, saying the process will include "work statement assessments" and that "in some cases ... employees' job levels may be adjusted."

He said the purpose of the restructuring is to make the organization more streamlined and efficient as IT needs grow across the company, "without a substantial increase in cost."

Boeing is just beginning to assess what work should be done where, he said.

Defense-side layoffs

Those laid off on the defense side Friday were longtime software engineers who had been working on updating the "airborne warning and control system" (AWACS) fleet of aircraft.

One of them said about 40 people had lost their jobs.

He said the layoffs were not due to budget sequestration. Instead, he said Boeing's various AWACs contracts in Kent are winding down.

"The future is not good down there," he said. "A lot of programs we've been working quite a few years, putting new software on the AWACS, are pretty much done."

He said more layoffs are set for this summer unless new contracts materialize, which seems unlikely given the current constriction of the U.S. defense budget.

Boeing said a total 130 people were laid off companywide Friday, including the AWACS employees



Source: (c)2013 The Seattle Times. Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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