Boeing to lay off as many as 700 engineers this year

The Boeing Co. plans to reduce its engineering workforce by 1,500 to 1,700 people by the end of the year, with as many as 700 engineers facing layoff.

“Unfortunately and unavoidably we must take additional actions that will impact some direct employees,” Mike Delaney, vice president of engineering for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, wrote in a message sent Thursday to engineering managers.

Roughly 100 manufacturing engineering employees in the Puget Sound region will receive 60-day notices on Friday, Delaney wrote. The company already has let go 700 contract workers since October. Boeing will reach the 1,500 to 1,700 reduction through a combination of attrition and layoffs.

The company is reducing engineering employment for two reasons. First, non-recurring development work on the 787-8, 787-9 and KC-46A tanker has been completed, Delaney wrote.

Secondly, “potential development programs for the 787-10X and 777X, which might have provided opportunities to avoid these layoffs, have not been formally approved and launched,” Delaney wrote.

Delaney called the prospect for future development work “very positive” but said the work for the yet-to-be-launched 787-10 and 777X was “too far out” for the company to maintain the current engineering employment level.

A formal launch of the larger version of Boeing’s Dreamliner and the updated 777 have been in the works. The company was expected to seek formal approval this month from its board of directors to begin offering the 777X to customers.

The timeline for introducing those models into commercial service has not changed, Doug Alder, a Boeing spokesman, said in an interview. The company continues to study the 777X and 787-10 and hasn’t delayed plans to develop those aircraft, he said.

The layoffs were disappointing news to Ray Goforth, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, which represents 23,000 Boeing engineering workers.

Boeing “is actively outsourcing engineering work to the Moscow Design Center while laying off employees in the Northwest who should be performing that work,” Goforth said.

The company’s design center in Russia has been a sore point for the union as has the company’s use of outsourcing over the years. SPEEA has pointed to outsourcing as the reason Boeing was nearly three years behind schedule in delivering the first 787 jet.

Boeing and SPEEA inked new labor contracts for engineers and technical workers earlier this year after lengthy and contentious negotiations. The two sides continue negotiations for 106 pilots. Boeing announced plans earlier this year to move flight simulator jobs to Miami, resulting in the loss of 41 pilot and simulator instructor jobs in the Puget Sound region.

“The company is running on a bean-counter focus,” said Bill Dugovich, SPEEA communications director. “It’s not taking into consideration the engineers and pilots we have here.”

Boeing’s Alder denied the company was moving engineering work from the Puget Sound to the Moscow Design Center. However, he acknowledged the company continues to hire in “critical” skill areas.

Last month, Boeing announced it plans to lay off 800 machinists by the end of 2013. Layoff notices were sent April 5 to 939 workers, according to the local district of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Boeing said that it no longer needs as many mechanics to rework and modify 787s and 747-8s as the company has improved the quality of the jets coming off the production line.

Boeing employed 85,852 people in Washington at the end of March. The company’s employment in the state has been declining since reaching a high of 87,023 last October.

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