By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Boeing Co. will lay off approximately 800 workers, primarily from the 747 and 787 jet programs, by the end of 2013, the company announced Friday.
Overall, Boeing will reduce Puget Sound-area employment by 2,000 to 2,300 workers through attrition and other means, but 800 of those job cuts will be layoffs.
“We’ve always expected our employment level would come down when those programs stabilized,” said Doug Alder, a spokesman for Boeing.
The layoffs mostly will come from the 747 and 787 modification and change incorporation areas at Paine Field. Boeing built dozens of 787 and 747 aircraft before the Federal Aviation Administration certified the jets. Boeing workers have been bringing those early-built jets up to delivery specifications. Newly built 747-8s and 787s have not required as much rework.
Boeing’s 787 has been grounded since Jan. 16 due to battery failures. Boeing is expected to flight test the redesigned lithium-ion battery soon with hopes of returning the 787 to passenger service within weeks.
Alder said that production rates on the 747 and 787 programs will not be affected by the layoffs. The company still plans to reach a production rate of 10 787s per month by the end of 2013.
Boeing has not issued layoff notices yet, Alder said. The company has contacted the local district of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents most workers who will be laid off. The company also already has reassigned 500 workers to other parts of Boeing.
Connie Kelliher, a spokeswoman for the Machinists, noted that the company is trying to mitigate the impact of needing fewer Machinists doing modification work. The layoffs are not the start of a downturn for Boeing, she wrote in an emailed statement.
“Unlike past layoffs, there are no production rate decreases on any airplane line,” Kelliher wrote. “Production rates remain high, and there is a seven-year backlog.”
Modification work on the 787s will continue. Alder did not say how much longer the 787 modification work would take beyond 2013. Earlier this year, Boeing’s chief financial officer, Greg Smith, predicted that all modification work would be wrapped up by the end of 2015.
In January, Boeing bought the 600,000-square-foot modification center, which previously was occupied by Aviation Technical Services. In the near term, Boeing will continue to use the modification center, which includes office and hangar space, as before, said Kathy Spicer, Boeing spokeswoman.
Boeing had moved some workers to the modification center from the company’s delivery center, which was torn down. The new delivery center will open next month at Paine Field, and workers will move in later in the month, said Elizabeth Fischtziur, a spokeswoman for Boeing’s Everett site.
Boeing’s Spicer declined to say what the modification center would be used for after the delivery center employees move and the 787 work comes to an end. However, Boeing officials are mulling several development programs, including the 787-10 and 777X.
Earlier this year, Boeing said it would reduce employment levels at the company’s site in North Charleston, S.C. Many of the affected workers in South Carolina were contract workers, Alder said.
Boeing employment in Washington has been declining since reaching a high of 87,023 last October. At the end of February, Boeing employed 86,198 people in Washington.
In recent years, lawmakers and industry groups like the Aerospace Futures Alliance have worked to increase aerospace training as well as engineering capacity at universities in Washington.
Linda Lanham, executive director of the aerospace alliance, said the layoffs came as shock to her. Lanham also sits on the state’s Aerospace Pipeline Advisory Committee, which works with Boeing and other companies to ensure the number of people being trained in specific areas matches companies’ demands for workers. She recently surveyed several of the region’s aerospace companies about hiring needs.
“Most of the suppliers say they’re going to be hiring by the end of the year,” Lanham said.
Many suppliers already are hiring, which gives Lanham hope that those workers being laid off by Boeing can find work in the region’s supply chain. She believes that students already enrolled at the various training centers also will find work with aerospace suppliers or in other fields such as the marine industry.
“Hopefully, we can place a lot of these workers,” she said.
Herald reporter Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454 or firstname.lastname@example.org.