Deadline looms for voluntary separation from Spirit AeroSystems

Spirit AeroSystems sign in Wichita.
Spirit AeroSystems sign in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle

Spirit AeroSystems employees interested in taking the company up on its offer of voluntary retirement or voluntary layoff must express interest this week, the company told employees.

The deadline is 5 p.m. Friday.

Spirit announced last week that it will offer voluntary separations to an undetermined number of salaried employees and managers beginning in September.

Layoffs will begin following the voluntary separations.

Evaluations will continue “throughout the year,” the company said in an e-mail to employees last week.

In the next few weeks, the company will provide numbers on how many employees will be affected, said Spirit spokesman Ken Evans.

Expressing interest in a voluntary retirement or layoff doesn’t mean an employee is committed to accept the offer.

“All we’ve asked employees to do is tell us whether they want more information about those offerings,” Evans said.

Only certain employee groups will be eligible to participate, the company said in its communication to employees. And Spirit will give employees information on whether they qualify, Evans said. He declined to say what groups of employees may not be eligible.

“This is an individualized process,” he said.

Those who are interested and qualify will receive a formal offer setting terms and conditions.

As Spirit works with employees, it will be mindful of the need to serve customers, Evans said.

“We must do that going forward,” he said. “So the company will do whatever it needs to do to make sure that we are well positioned to serve our customers and meet our program commitments going forward.”

The reductions follow a July layoff of 360 salaried employees and managers in Wichita and Tulsa, a move to reduce overhead and operate more efficiently, Spirit said.

Those participating in the upcoming voluntary layoffs will receive individualized severance packages of up to $30,000 plus career transition services.

How much they will receive will depend on salary, years of service, job codes and job levels, said B.J. Moore, a contract administrator with the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, which represents Spirit engineers and professional and technical employees.

To participate in the voluntary retirement, employees must be 55 or older and have 10 or more years of service. The program will include a lump sum severance of $30,000.

It will also include retiree medical benefits that will bridge until the age of 62, as long as the employee is at least 59 1/2 years old when he or she retires.

The medical benefit to bridge to age 62 is there, but it’s expensive, said Bob Brewer, SPEEA Midwest director.

Spirit must explain this to employees, Brewer said. “They want to make it sound like a good deal.”

Employee costs for medical coverage for those who take early retirement, are represented by SPEEA and are between the ages of 59 1/2 and 62 will run $867 or $889 a month for the employee only, depending on the plan, said SPEEA’s Moore. Costs to insure a family will range from $2,585 to $2,659 a month.

At age 62, the insurance rates drop to what is paid by employees, Moore said.

The deal may not be for everyone.

“The bridge is an attempt to add something new that the company believes some people will benefit from,” Evans said. “It has not been offered before. … It’s a potential enhancement, particularly for the represented population, that the company is willing to offer to individuals if they want to raise their hand and say ‘yes.’”

The union plans to put out a memo to represented employees this week with updates on the voluntary programs, Moore said.