Hawker Beechcraft to lay off 350 salaried workers, says no economic upturn expected soon

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hawker Beechcraft lays off 350 workers

WICHITA, Kan. — Hawker Beechcraft became the second airplane maker in Kansas this week to announce layoffs when it announced plans Friday to cut 350 jobs

CEO Bill Boisture told workers in a letter that like all aircraft manufactuers, Hawker Beechcraft continues to experience the effects of a worldwide recession.

“While there are pockets of growth in the global economy, the market for new production aircraft has stagnated at a very low level,” he wrote. “Readily available, high quality, used aircraft and the lack of financing have combined to depress the prices on private and business aircraft.”

The latest round of layoffs come on top of the more than 2,800 announced layoffs at Hawker Beechcraft since late 2008. On Tuesday, Cessna Aircraft announced it was laying off 700 workers in the wake of a stagnant economic recovery.

“Although those difficult people decisions sustained us, the market for new production aircraft is not improving as we had hoped,” Boisture said. “In fact, the market is flat to slightly down and the conditions that would signal an upturn are not in sight for at least the next 12 months or longer.”

Hawker Beechcraft told employees the new round of layoffs will be from its salaried work force, with decisions on where to make the cuts expected by Nov. 1.

The company told employees that as “rates and efficiencies change” the firm will continue to manage its hourly work force size. It said it did not see a large-scale layoff of hourly employees, but small reductions or short furloughs may be required to manage production and reduce unsold aircraft inventory.

Hawker Beechcraft declined to release its current work force figures.

Meanwhile, Hawker Beechcraft is in negotiations with its machinists union. The talks were opened in August, a year before the current contract is set to expire amid reports that the company is considering moving jobs out of Wichita.

Union leaders have said company officials told them a move could happen if talks aren’t successful. The machinists union now represents about 2,400 workers in Wichita.

The mood going into this year’s early negotiations sharply contrasted with talks in August 2008, when striking machinists accepted a three-year labor contract after nearly a month on the picket lines. That contract covered about 4,700 hourly workers at the Wichita plant and 500 in Salina. The company has since announced it is closing the Salina facility.

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