Union letter to Spirit AeroSystems’ board outlines concerns in wake of layoffs

08/05/2013 6:00 PM

08/08/2014 10:18 AM

Spirit AeroSystems’ engineering and professional and technical union has sent an open letter to the company’s board of directors saying that management’s “secretive” direction leaves them concerned about their future and the fate of the company.

The letter comes after Spirit laid off 360 employees in Tulsa and Wichita on July 25, including about 200 union-represented employees in Wichita. It also comes as Spirit releases its second-quarter earnings on Tuesday.

It is signed by Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace Midwest Council officers Brenda Reiling, chairwoman; Debbie Longsdon, treasurer; and Rhonda Greer, secretary.

The purpose of the letter is to let the board know the union’s perspective on what is happening at Spirit, said SPEEA spokesman Bill Dugovich.

Spirit AeroSystems spokesman Ken Evans said the company had no comment.

“More than a week has passed since we announced and explained the rationale behind the layoff,” Evans said in an e-mail. “We have nothing new to add.”

SPEEA officials and some of the laid-off workers plan to attend Tuesday’s Wichita City Council and Wednesday’s Sedgwick County Commission meetings so city and county leaders can “put a face to the people you are hearing about,” Dugovich said.

SPEEA will share what it’s doing to help laid-off employees and tell local leaders the union is ready to help them attract aviation companies to the area, Dugovich said.

“We’re not going there to beat up on Spirit AeroSystems,” Dugovich said. “Layoffs like this ... affect the city, tax revenue and local businesses.”

Some Spirit employees are bracing for more cuts.

Some are packing up personal items in their work spaces “in case they are in the next wave of mass terminations,” the letter said.

In last month’s layoffs, employees were told in meetings that their jobs were being cut, and then they were walked out the door without an opportunity to return to their desks for personal items.

“Productivity has plummeted,” the letter said. “Employees are spending their time looking for jobs at other companies. Customers are complaining.”

Before last month’s cuts, Spirit employed about 11,000 people in Wichita and 2,500 in Tulsa. SPEEA represents about 3,200 Spirit workers in two units in Wichita.

In the letter, SPEEA said that Spirit managers are reinterpreting rules, practices and union contract provisions “in ways no one ever imagined and no one in management is bothering to explain. Employees who management documented as being stellar performers for years arrive at work one day to suddenly discover that management now considers their performance unacceptable.”

Work packages integral to customer satisfaction are being outsourced to companies without experience to do them correctly, the letter said.

The union officials also say that layoffs have affected the ability to get work done.

“Critical skills, talent and knowledge have walked out the gate with rounds of mass terminations and layoffs,” the letter said. “Managers who thought they could accomplish tasks without certain employees are discovering ... they didn’t know what they didn’t know.

“The intellectual capital built up in this workforce through the decades has been squandered in what appears to be a desperate scheme to artificially lower payroll costs,” the letter reads.

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