News > Companies
Boeing moves some work
March 23, 2001: 1:45 p.m. ET

Assembly of 757 fuselage shifts to Wichita; no job losses seen
By Staff Writer Chris Isidore
graphic graphic
NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Boeing Co., which shook the Pacific Northwest with the news earlier this week that it plans to move its executive offices out of Seattle, announced Friday that it is moving some of the work on one of its commercial jets to its plant in Wichita, Kan.

About 500 employees in the Renton, Wash., plant who now handle assembly of the fuselage of the 757 will be assigned to other jobs. The company employs about 78,000 people in the state.

The move is to take place over the next two-to-three years. The company said that no job cuts are anticipated as a result of this move, or a decision to consolidate some operations which will reduce factory space by about 3 million square feet in Washington state and in Wichita by the end of 2002.

graphicThe company's statement sought to assure Seattle-area workers that the company is not pulling out of the region, even with the decision to move its executive offices.

"We'll continue to have a major presence and impact here," said Dan Becker, the company's manufacturing and quality leader. "These latest asset decisions are aimed at strengthening our ability to continue to succeed in the global market, which is critical to our future as a major employer here in Puget Sound."

Becker said Boeing has completed a number of studies of its supplier management organizations that produce parts and assemblies for its products. As a result of the studies, it has decided not close or divest these operations in the foreseeable future, but instead will focus on making further efficiency improvements through internal consolidation within those organizations, many of which are based in Puget Sound area.

graphicThe Wichita plant already does some of the work for the 757, and its workers already handle the assembly of another, similar narrow-body fuselage, the 737. The completed sections of the fuselages then are transported by rail to Washington state for the addition of wings and landing gear and the final assembly before delivery of the jet.

Workers at both the Wichita and Renton plants are represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, so this is not a shift of work away from a unionized facility, said Matt Bates, spokesman for the union's international office.

"Off hand, as long as it's handled properly according to the contract, I don't anticipate any problems," Bates said. "It'd be a very different matter if they were sending the work off-shore to a low-wage contractor."

But Bates said that given the announcement earlier in the week and the worries of many union members about the company's continued commitment to the Seattle area, this news is likely to raise concern

"Timing wise, the anxiety levels are very high," he said.

The 757 still will be completed in Washington state even after the move of fuselage assembly, as most Boeing commercial jets now are. Boeing is the largest employer in the Seattle area, the world's largest aircraft manufacturer and the United States' largest exporter.

Click here for a look at aerospace stocks

Boeing announced Wednesday it will relocate its 1,000-person headquarters to either the Chicago, Dallas or Denver area by this fall, and take only about half of that staff with them in the move. The company has cut about 30,000 production jobs in the Pacific Northwest over the last three years.

Shares of Boeing (BA: Research, Estimates), a component of the Dow Jones industrial average, gained $1 cents to $53 in trading Friday afternoon. graphic