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SPEEA protests firing of 37 workers at Spirit AeroSystems

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, March 14, 2013, at 11:12 a.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, June 25, 2014, at 5:12 p.m.

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Spirit AeroSystems fired 37 employees on Wednesday and Thursday, a move that the company’s engineering and technical and professional union claimed violated the union’s contracts, as well as Spirit policies and procedures.

“We have a war on our hands,” said Bob Brewer, Midwest director for the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace.

“It’s not about the terminations, it’s the way they did it,” Brewer said. “We have contractual language on a process to do that. Spirit has their own processes and procedures to do that, and they have violated all of those.”

A Spirit spokesman said there have been no layoffs in Wichita.

“A company the size of Spirit has people entering and exiting the company all the time; those are personnel matters that we do not discuss publicly,” Spirit spokesman Jarrod Bartlett said in an e-mail.

Spirit employs 16,000 globally, including 11,000 in Wichita.

When the company was formed in 2005, it employed roughly 8,000 people.

The firings came as a surprise to those who were terminated, Brewer said.

The terminations were for performance issues, the union said. But many of those affected had no documented performance problems.

Spirit has a coaching plan and employees with performance issues are to be placed on such a plan, Brewer said. SPEEA’s contract calls for progressive discipline.

That didn’t happen, he said.

The 37 workers are represented by SPEEA’s engineering unit and its technical and professional unit.

The company told the union that it was “trying to send a message” to employees, Brewer said. “It’s fear-based management, and it doesn’t work.”

SPEEA plans to file a grievance, Brewer said.

One employee on family leave to care for a spouse who had major surgery was getting a phone call from the company Thursday that the worker was being fired, Brewer said. Another was called off vacation to be terminated.

“Tell me how dignified and respectful that is,” Brewer said.

Are there more to come?

“I’ve asked that question this morning, Brewer said Thursday. “I know that Spirit is over their head count as an enterprise. If you’re over your head count, call a surplus. ... They could have provided layoffs for these employees. They opted not to do that.”

The terminations follow others that have occurred within Spirit’s non-represented salaried employees since later in 2012, Brewer said. “They don’t have a contract that provides them any protections. We do.”

There are fewer employees in SPEEA’s bargaining unit today than in 2008, he said. In that time, there have been rate increases on existing programs and new programs have gone into production, so employees are doing more with less, he said.

“They’re so overworked, they can’t get their work done (and) they’re getting written up because they can’t get their work done,” Brewer said. But the company isn’t approving overtime.

“I know people are taking their work home to do it. ...” Brewer said. “These people are stressed out; they’re tired. They’re frustrated. And now Spirit’s trying to scare the hell out of them thinking that’s going to help the situation.”

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

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