Coronavirus leads to big job cuts at Boeing

PUGET SOUND, Wash. — Boeing held on to workers through the 737 MAX crisis, but the coronavirus is proving too much.

On Wednesday, the company announced plans to cut ten percent of its global workforce of 160,000 people as it builds fewer planes.

The Puget Sound area, with about 70,000 workers, could be hit particularly hard because many commercial planes are built here, and that’s the part of the business that’s down the most.

Boeing says job cuts in the commercial division will exceed 15%.

“This virus is a body blow to the aviation industry,” said CEO Dave Calhoun.

The breakdown of job cuts among local sites is not yet known.

Calhoun said Boeing sent offers to apply for voluntary layoffs to 70,000 workers across the company.

“That’s a big number. And it’s a big number relative to any other action Boeing has taken in its history and honestly we are hoping we get a reasonably big number out of that, for no other reason than to minimize the number of involuntary actions we take,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun predicts it will take years for the industry to recover, but he expects the job cuts announced Wednesday will carry the company through 2022.

“We think we’re being conservative here and we think we’ve adjusted to the right level to carry us at least a couple of years out, so no we don’t have any hidden second plan, we don’t have any contingencies on that front, we just simply have to execute on this,” Calhoun said.

Workers who apply for voluntary layoffs should find out in mid-May if they’re approved.

Most would finish work June 5.

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, the union representing engineers and technical workers, wrote, “We continue to discuss the situation with Boeing and work with our members who are eligible to take a voluntary layoff to ensure they know their options. Hopefully, attrition and voluntary layoffs are able to absorb the employee reductions and avoid mandatory layoffs.”