Boeing CEO says voluntary layoffs are on the way

Boeing Renton Factory
Boeing has been dealing with the worldwide grounding of its 737 MAX planes as well as the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. (GeekWire Photo)

Boeing CEO David Calhoun says the company is preparing a voluntary layoff program that’s aimed at reducing the need for “other workforce actions” as it deals with the economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter sent to employees, Calhoun said details about how the program works will be laid out in the next three to four weeks. Speaking on background, a Boeing official said several thousand employees are expected to take the voluntary layoff package or retire.

For the past year, Boeing has been struggling with the worldwide grounding of its 737 MAX passenger jets in the wake of two catastrophic crashes. The company was targeting the middle of this year to resolve all the safety issues and win the Federal Aviation Administration’s go-ahead to put the planes back into operation.

Then the pandemic hit. Last month, reports emerged about COVID-19 cases — and at least one death — among employees at Boeing’s production facilities in the Puget Sound region. Those facilities are now in the middle of a 14-day shutdown while Boeing conducts deep-cleaning operations at the plants and assesses the wider impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Calhoun said Boeing was “doing everything possible to keep this team intact” during the pandemic.

“But one thing is already clear: It will take time for the aerospace industry to recover from the crisis. When the world emerges from the pandemic, the size of the commercial market and the types of products and services our customers want and need will likely be different. We will need to balance the supply and demand accordingly as the industry goes through the recovery process for years to come,” he told employees.

“It’s important we start adjusting to our new reality now,” he wrote.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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