More than 1,800 union members will soon leave Boeing under a buyout plan offered last month, the first step in a continuing company job-cutting effort that’s expected to include layoffs later this year.
The Machinists union said 1,500 of its members applied for a buyout and were approved to leave the company.
The engineering union at Boeing said 305 of its members were approved and are expected to leave the company in April.
Machinists who accepted the buyout got one week of severance pay for each year of service up to a maximum of 26 weeks pay, plus six months of medical coverage at the same rate as when employed.
Engineering staff got the same severance pay package, but with only three months of medical coverage.
Boeing declined to release any figures, so the number of nonunion job cuts is unknown.
These cuts are just the beginning, with more to follow through the year.
Boeing slashed almost 7,400 jobs in the state last year.
Then in December, Boeing Vice Chairman Ray Conner and the new chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Kevin McAllister, issued a joint message to employees warning that “fewer sales opportunities and tough competition” would drive further cuts in 2017.
International Association of Machinists spokeswoman Connie Kelliher said Boeing has not indicated to the union what its end target is for job cuts this year.
“We don’t know if this round of buyouts fulfilled what they were looking for,” said Kelliher.
Last year, Boeing cut 2,100 Machinist jobs, all through attrition or voluntary buyouts, with no forced layoffs.
Bill Dugovich, a spokesman for the engineering union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), said Boeing management last week told the union that if there are any further rounds of buyouts this year, they will be more limited, targeting very specific groups of employees.
In a January memo to Boeing’s engineering staff, John Hamilton, vice president of engineering at Commercial Airplanes, said there will be two additional rounds of buyouts and layoffs in engineering later this year.
Dugovich said Boeing has told union officials to expect the total number of job cuts in 2017 to be “in line with last year.”
Last year, SPEEA lost about 1,200 members, with 350 of those cuts being involuntary layoffs.
Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman said the February buyouts were a continuation of the process announced in December, with the company aiming to achieve the job cuts “through a combination of attrition, leaving open positions unfilled, voluntary layoff program and in some cases, involuntary layoffs.”
“Every few months, there’s going to be another group going through this,” he said.