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Monday, April 21, 2014

Spirit AeroSystems workers will be back on the job Monday

By Molly McMillin
The Wichita Eagle

Spirit AeroSystems employees will return to work on Monday, resuming work halted after the plant took a direct hit from an EF-3 tornado Saturday night.

In what is good news for workers, employees will be paid for their normal work schedule this week, Spirit spokesman Jarrod Bartlett said Wednesday.

Operations have been suspended since the damage, and workers were told not to report this week unless told by their managers to come in.

“We are committed to doing what we have to do to bring our factory up and running by Monday,” Spirit AeroSystems President and CEO Jeff Turner said in a statement.

Spirit has made good progress with recovery this week, Turner said.

Operations have been suspended since the tornado tore through the complex, damaging buildings and infrastructure.

Once production resumes Monday, Spirit will work to ramp back up to full production rates. How soon that will be achieved is not yet known, Bartlett said.

Crews have been working around the clock to assess tornado damage, build and work on recovery plans, clear debris and restore basic service to the site, which also lost electricity and natural gas service.

“It doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty,” Turner said. “It has to be safe and operational, and allow us to produce quality products on a regular drumbeat to meet our customer needs.”

On Monday, not all employees may be doing their normal jobs, said Steve Rooney, business representative for the Machinists union District 70.

Rooney said he and a team from the union have toured the facilities.

“The damage in there is not as bad from the inside as it looks from the outside,” Rooney said.

Safety is the first priority, he said.

“We want to get back to full production, but we don’t want to injure anybody,” he said.

The union represents 6,200 of Spirit’s 11,000 employees at the site.

Getting people back to work is “good news for the city of Wichita, and employees of Spirit,” Rooney said.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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