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More job cuts imminent at Spirit AeroSystems

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, August 29, 2013, at 4:20 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, at 2:53 p.m.

Spirit AeroSystems is planning its second round of job cuts in two months beginning in September.

It plans to offer a voluntary retirement program, a voluntary layoff program and a layoff of management and salaried employees, the company said Thursday.

The number of cuts has not been determined, said Spirit spokesman Ken Evans.

“At some point next month, that will become more clear,” Evans said.

The hourly workforce will not be affected.

The reduction in force is designed to balance the workforce, reduce overhead costs, increase efficiency and drive improved performance, the company said.

“Today’s announcement represents continued strategic moves by the company to become more competitive in a cost-sensitive environment,” Spirit said in a statement.

In July, Spirit laid off 360 people at its Wichita and Tulsa sites as it works to cut costs. Most of the cuts were in Wichita.

Spirit employs about 10,750 people in Wichita.

Spirit will offer a lump-sum severance package and career transition services to employees who are laid off. It will also offer a lump-sum severance package and a health care bridging option to employees who are eligible for the voluntary retirement program. The health-care bridging option will offer health care for those too young for Medicare benefits.

Spirit wants to make sure the ratio of support staff to the number of employees on the shop floor in in balance, Evans said.

It also will continue to hire during the reduction of salaried employees and managers as it works to increase production rates on Boeing’s 737 and 787.

It will be hiring for critical skills primarily in the hourly work force, Evans said. The majority of positions are out on the floor.

The company met with officials of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, which represents more than 3,000 engineers and professional and technical workers at Spirit in two units.

Spirit did not give SPEEA officials a number of how many would be cut.

“We’re in a ‘we know very little’ mode,” said SPEEA Midwest director Bob Brewer.

But Brewer is expecting cuts this round to exceed those in July.

But since there will be voluntary retirements along with layoffs, “I don’t know how it could be less,” Brewer said. “I think you’re looking at significant numbers potentially.”

Brewer wasn’t surprised at the news.

“When it happens, it’s going to be another tap on the shoulder and ‘Let me walk you to the parking lot,’” Brewer said of the way employees were laid off in July.

Laid-off workers did not get to return to their desks or say good-bye to their coworkers.

“They treated them like criminals,” he said. “The only thing they didn’t do is put them in handcuffs.”

That’s not the way to treat people, Brewer said. “It was really wrong.”

One of the key principles in the process has been to treat employees with dignity and respect, Evans said.

“By exiting employees the same day, the affected employees can focus on their transition and begin finding new jobs without juggling work responsibilities,” he said.

“We are offering employees a lump sum severance payment and career transition services,” Evans said.

The upcoming reductions will be the second round in the history of Spirit, which began in 2005.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mmcmillin.

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