EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, a division of United Technologies Corp., said Wednesday that it plans to cut 1,500 to 2,000 salaried jobs over the next year to help combat increased competition.
The reduction of something less than 10% of its 24,000 salaried workers worldwide is "probably the largest" in the history of the jet engine maker, spokesman Curtis Linke said.
Analysts saw the move as part of a trend in the industry to trim overhead in response to uncertainty about the economy and the future of defense spending.
The number of layoffs will depend on how many jobs can be eliminated through attrition, transfer and voluntary retirement, the company said.
President Arthur Wegner said Pratt & Whitney made "the difficult but necessary decision to . . . reduce staff overhead" so it could "respond quickly, in a cost-effective manner, to increasingly competitive market conditions."
The across-the-board reductions were expected from the executive level on down, Linke said. He said workers were informed of the plan Wednesday morning but were asked not to make instant decisions.
"By mid-December we should know where we're heading and what's happening," Linke said.
Discussions began this week with 330 employees at Pratt & Whitney headquarters in East Hartford and 170 workers at its plant in West Palm Beach, Fla., about alternative job assignments and comprehensive retirement benefits.
The company said it planned to offer severance pay, insurance protection, retraining and resettlement allowances and out-placement counseling.
The move followed an announcement by Hartford-based United Technologies of an early retirement offer to about 65 corporate office staff members and word that each division of United Technologies is studying similar reductions in overhead.
United Technologies' offer to corporate staff was made Oct. 30 to about 65 employees who have at least 10 years of continuous service and will be at least 55 years old by Dec. 31, corporate spokesman Thomas Drohan said.
Analyst Howard Nichol, who tracks the company for Advest Inc. in Hartford, Conn., said the retirement incentives may have been inspired by corporate uncertainty over defense spending of a new, Democrat-controlled Senate.
Another important motivation could be concern about a downturn in the construction industry in response to the new tax laws.