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Hughes Considering More Cutbacks in Plants and Work Force

May 07, 1994|JAMES F. PELTZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Layoffs again loom for Hughes Aircraft Co.'s workers in Southern California as the company studies how to further streamline its operations in the region--perhaps with plant closings.

Hughes--the state's largest industrial employer, with 34,000 workers in California--said the consolidation effort focuses on four sites: its radar and warfare electronics facility in Fullerton, which has 6,800 workers; two defense electronics plants in El Segundo, with 8,000 employees, and a field support office in Long Beach, with 970 workers.

Not affected are Hughes' headquarters offices in Westchester and its satellite and communications plants in El Segundo, spokesman Ray Silvius said Friday.

Task forces are evaluating how best to streamline the four facilities under review, and no decisions about closings, transfers or layoffs will be made until summer, Hughes officials said.

But in a special newsletter distributed to Hughes workers this week, Vice Chairman Michael T. Smith said that "there are no sacred cows here" in terms of the plant sites involved, adding, "All options will be considered."

Smith also said that "employee layoffs would almost certainly be part of the restructuring process--especially in view of the fact that any cost incurred by restructuring must be borne by the company."

Hughes, a unit of General Motors Corp., is developing ways to help "employees at risk" find work elsewhere in the company, with "specific plans related to layoffs" to be worked out over the next three months, Smith said.

The task forces' review stems from Hughes' creation in March of a new subsidiary, called Hughes Aerospace & Electronics Co., that merged the firm's aerospace, defense, missile and systems groups. The new unit is headed by Smith.

This would be only the latest shrinkage for Hughes, which, like other defense companies, has already undergone wrenching cutbacks in the post-Cold War era.

In one major revamp, for example, Hughes moved its missile operations from Canoga Park to Tucson, Ariz.

The company now employs 50,000 people worldwide, down from 82,000 in the mid-1980s.

News of the latest review unsettled Hughes workers in Fullerton. "I bought a house last week and now this happens," one employee said, asking not to be identified.

Fullerton Mayor A.B. (Buck) Catlin said closing the Fullerton site would be "a crushing blow," saying it would hurt nearby stores and other businesses that cater to the Hughes work force.

Hughes said it needs to consolidate further because of its excessive office and manufacturing space in Southern California and ongoing Pentagon spending cuts. In Fullerton, Hughes is using about two-thirds of its available space on a 350-acre site. At its peak in 1986, the Fullerton plant employed 14,500 people.

Overall, Hughes has between 1 million and 2 million square feet of excess office and production space in Los Angeles and Orange counties, spokesman Dan Reeder said.

*

Times staff writer Dean Takahashi in Fullerton contributed to this report.

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