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Boeing to make 1st involuntary layoffs in North Charleston

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Boeing S.C. plans to give fewer than 200 workers involuntary layoff notices on Friday, according to a company memo. (Photo/Kim McManus)

Boeing plans to make the first involuntary layoffs at its North Charleston campus since operations began there in 2011, according to a company memo.

Fewer than 200 employees will receive involuntary layoff notices on Friday, the memo said.

“This is a first for BSC (Boeing South Carolina),” Joan Robinson-Berry, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina, said in the memo. She added, “there may be more to come.”

The Boeing Co. has been laying off thousands of workers at plants across the country, specifically in the Puget Sound region of Washington state, since early 2016. Company leaders have said layoffs are necessary in the Commercial Airplanes division to boost competitiveness with Boeing rival Airbus and to cut production costs.

Until now, Boeing’s Lowcountry operations had only voluntary layoffs — 200 workers received voluntary notices in April 2016, followed by 600 voluntary notices handed out in January.

Involuntary layoffs are now needed to meet the company’s business plan and improve competitiveness, Robinson-Berry said in the memo.

“Our BCA leaders have been preparing us for this possibility since late last year,” Robinson-Berry said, referring to Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “We are all aware of the need to be more competitive in a relentlessly challenging industry. Our competitors do not rest in their drive to win sales campaigns and neither can we. ... While we understand the business need, it doesn’t make this action any easier.”

The involuntary layoffs will affect several departments and positions: operations management; engineering, both management and non-management; quality managers, quality systems specialists and quality production specialists; industrial engineering; staff analysts and office administrators; and training.

Robinson-Berry said the plane manufacturer has worked to mitigate the number of job cuts by bringing additional work to the site, offering the voluntary layoff packages and filling open positions from within.

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to avoid moving forward with an involuntary layoff process. ... My heart goes out to those involved in this process. I know how difficult it is,” Robinson-Berry said.

Boeing South Carolina employed 7,379 people as of May 25, which is down 10% compared with May 2016 and down 12% since March 2014, when the site hit its highest employment with about 8,400 employees, according to company data.

In the past year, the Boeing S.C. site opened a new paint facility for Dreamliners, rolled out the first 787-10 Dreamliner, had a visit from President Donald Trump and held an election with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, in which voters overwhelmingly turned down union representation.

Boeing’s Lowcountry operations include building all three models of the 787 Dreamliner, producing interior components for the 787, making engine parts for the 737 Max and 777X, and running centers for information technology and for research.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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Write a Comment

July 19, 2017

Turning down the union was their first mistake. This is a chain of events that could had been avoided, but...

July 11, 2017

The union couldn't save the jobs of thousands of Boeing employees who have been laid off in Washington state over the past two years. Besides stealing a cut of their paychecks, explain what the union would have done for workers in South Carolina?

July 03, 2017

Perhaps now they will vote the union in and protect the financial security of their family. Saying sorry from management doesn't cover the mortgage. Sad to see workers kicked to the curb by corporate greed.

June 26, 2017

I thought by electing Trump and not unionizing we get to keep our jobs... What happened?