June 17, 2014

Unions ask Spirit to address work rumors about sale, security guards

Rumors running wild at Spirit AeroSystems about the hiring of more than 100 security guards with stun guns and riot gear aren’t true, said Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer.

Rumors running wild at Spirit AeroSystems about the hiring of more than 100 security guards with stun guns and riot gear aren’t true, said Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer.

Neither is the rumor that GKN Aerospace has purchased Spirit’s detail parts fabrication work, Brewer said.

Those are the two main rumors Brewer said he has heard – and that he asked Spirit to address.

He spoke with a Spirit official about the proliferation of the two rumors and was told they aren’t true, he said.

“They said that they’re looking at the work that they actually have, but that’s something they do all the time,” Brewer said.

It’s not uncommon for aviation companies to look at their work and business model, he said.

Spirit is pretty good about keeping the city informed about what’s going on and what’s happening when something is, he said.

“We hear rumors all the time about somebody,” Brewer said.

Debbie Gann, Spirit vice president of corporate communications and administration, issued a statement saying, “We do not deal in rumors or speculate about them. There are no company announcements to be made at this time.”

Bob Brewer, Midwest director with the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, said Tuesday that the rumors circulating through the plant haven’t been this rampant since before Boeing sold its commercial aircraft division in Wichita, which formed Spirit.

“There’s too much going on for something not to be in the works,” he said. “This is the same situation we ran into with the divestiture back in 2005. Everybody was hearing things until they came out and said, ‘Here’s what’s going on.’ ”

Earlier this month, sources, including Todd Tiahrt, who is running for the 4th Congressional District seat, said Spirit appears to be exploring the sale of its metal fabrication work to an outside company.

Tiahrt has been getting calls from concerned employees, he said, including some who told him they had attended meetings about the issue.

Last week, the SPEEA asked Spirit to respond to a list of rumors that have been circulating about the possible sale of detail parts fabrication and non-Boeing-related assembly work.

The company has not yet responded, Bob Brewer said.

The rumors are disrupting the workplace, he said.

“I don’t even know how they’re going to get planes built these days,” Bob Brewer said. “If they will just come out front and say, ‘Here’s what we’re doing,’ they can live with that.”

Spirit CEO Larry Lawson said last week at a celebration marking the completion of the 5,000th 737 Next Generation fuselage that the company faces tough competition.

Others want the kinds of partnerships that Spirit has formed, and they want to take jobs away from Spirit.

“We do have a big responsibility,” Lawson said. “They’re out there competing with us.”

The letter sent last week by the SPEEA to Jeff Clark, Spirit’s director of labor relations and workforce strategies, asks the company to address a long list of rumors.

Among the rumors addressed in the letter is that GKN Aerospace is buying Spirit’s detail parts fabrication business and all of the non-Boeing assembly work.

The SPEEA also asked whether it was true that Boeing was buying assembly work done by Spirit for Boeing’s aircraft programs.

And it asked Spirit about rumors that the company plans to announce the sales and changes around July 2 and that employees working in areas to be divested would have to reapply for their jobs.

It also asked Spirit to respond to rumors that the company recently added 100 security guards and bought riot gear and Tasers.

Another rumor, according to the e-mailed letter, is that all non-Boeing-related assembly work and parts fabrication was being bought by former Spirit CEO Jeff Turner and former Spirit executive Mike King.

The letter was signed by Bob Brewer.

Last week, Turner said there was no truth to the rumor about him.

The Machinists union, which represents Spirit hourly employees, has also requested information from the company.

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