Boeing cutting 1,100 jobs in US as orders drop

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LONG BEACH, California (AP) – Dwindling domestic demand for C-17 cargo planes will force Boeing Co. to slash 1,100 jobs at its U.S. plants, most of them in Long Beach where the aerospace giant has cut 13,000 jobs since the 1990s, the company said Thursday.

The 900 jobs in Long Beach and 200 jobs at plants in Mesa (Arizona), Macon (Georgia), and St. Louis will be cut by the end of next year.

The cuts include accountants, midlevel management, engineering, research and assembly line workers. Affected workers will receive 60-day notices beginning Friday, with layoffs staggered monthly through 2012.

Boeing said it will assist affected workers in trying to land positions elsewhere in the company.

The C-17 has been a military workhorse since production began in 1993. The U.S. Air Force has purchased 206 to date, with others owned by Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

India and Kuwait have placed orders for a combined 11 aircraft. If approved as expected in coming months, the deal with India’s Air Force should keep the Long Beach production line in operation through 2013.

In Long Beach, the Boeing work force has dwindled from 20,000 employees in the 1990s to less than 7,000.

Downsizing is necessary to slow the C-17 production schedule – from 14 aircraft annually to 10 – and keep plants operating with a smaller work force while international orders are sought for the plane, Boeing said.

“I’ve been working on the C-17 for 20 years and I personally know a lot of the great people who work on this, so it’s weighing heavily on me,” C-17 program manager Bob Ciesla said in a statement. “But it’s simply something that needed to be done.”

Boeing has been restructuring its operations in Long Beach. It recently announced the transfer 800 engineering and research positions to Oklahoma by the end of the year as well as the shutdown of a 160-employee parts warehouse in Carson, California, this summer.

Employees were told of the latest layoffs Wednesday.

“Between this and recent layoffs at the warehouse facility, it’s been overwhelming. The jobs are just drying up,” said Stan Klemchuck, president of United Aerospace Workers Local 148, which represents about 1,700 workers in Long Beach.

In a statement, Mayor Bob Foster said it was disappointing.

“Our rich history of aerospace manufacturing makes this an emotional day for Long Beach, as the C-17 plant is the last of what was previously a robust aerospace manufacturing industry in California,” Foster said.

-Associated Press