Boeing Hands Out Layoff Notices to Over 8,000 Workers

March 12, 2005
About 5,200 hourly workers and 2,900 salaried workers were notified Friday that they will not have a job with Boeing after May 13.

About 5,200 hourly workers and 2,900 salaried workers were notified Friday that they will not have a job with Boeing after May 13.

The 60-day layoff notices were issued to make way for Onex Corp. to buy Boeing's commercial assets in Wichita and in Tulsa and McAlester, Okla.

More layoff notices are expected, Boeing spokesman Dick Ziegler said. But how many more has not been determined.

The layoff notices were no surprise to workers, but receiving them boosted the anxiety levels of some employees concerned about their future, said Bob Brewer, Midwest director for the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace.

Some employees may feel confident they have a job while others may not, Brewer said. Either way, "the reality sets in today" that they won't work at Boeing, where many have spent most of their careers, he said.

"That's got to set people back on their heels," Brewer said.

About 7,300 people work at Boeing's commercial aircraft division in Wichita. Another 1,700 work in the Shared Services Group, which does work for both the commercial and military divisions here.

Boeing is selling its commercial aircraft facilities in Kansas and Oklahoma to cut costs and focus on final assembly. The Chicago-based company expects the sale to help it better compete with rival Airbus SAS. The deal, valued at $1.2 billion, is expected to close sometime in the second quarter.

In addition to a layoff notice, employees received a waiver to sign, which would allow Boeing to release their personnel information to Onex.

Onex wants to review the employee files to decide "whether to make job offers to them," the waiver said.

Onex needs basic information to consider employees for employment, Boeing explained in an accompanying memo. That includes information such as names, identification numbers, job titles and wage rates, the memo said.

Onex will not receive disciplinary or performance review information, Onex managing director Nigel Wright said.

Nor will Boeing release medical, workers compensation, Employee Assistance Program or Drug Free Workplace Act records, the waiver said.

Signing the waiver indicates the employee is interested in working for the new company, the memo said.

Not signing the form carries the "potential consequence" of not receiving an offer of employment with the new company, the waiver said.

Onex will allow employees who do not want to sign the release to apply in another way, Wright said. Most likely it would let them fill out an application, he said.

But Wright is urging employees to sign the waiver.

"It will make it much easier for us to communicate with them and plan for them," he said.

After meeting with its legal council, the Machinists union is encouraging workers interested in a job with the new company to sign the form, according to a union memo to represented employees.

But many questions remain.

Because the form authorizes Boeing to release "any and all" employment information except for medical, it's unclear what will be given to Onex, said officials with the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, another union at Boeing Wichita. The union is seeking clarification.

Ziegler said employees have the right to review information in their personnel files.

Still, "there's tension," said Boeing designer Jack Patton, who received a layoff notice Friday. When employees asked Boeing officials a host of questions Friday morning, there were few answers, he said.

"The problem is you have to sign the waiver," said Patton, who said he did sign. But "we don't have the information to make an intelligent decision."

If you don't fill it out, "you probably won't be offered a position," he said.

Randy Hill, a 20-year Boeing employee, also signed the waiver Friday.

"I don't get overly worked up about it," Hill said. "It's out of my control."

People are concerned, he said.

"They just hope in the back of their minds they're good enough for the new company to hire them," he said.