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Boeing offers voluntary buyouts to employees in its space division

April 16, 2013|By W.J. Hennigan
  • Boeing's satellite-making facility in El Segundo is part of a round of voluntary buyouts.
Boeing's satellite-making facility in El Segundo is part of a round… (Michael Robinson Chavez…)

Boeing Co.'s sprawling satellite-making operation in Southern California has just concluded a round of voluntary buyouts in an effort to slash its workforce by 250 to 300 employees.

The aerospace giant confirmed that it offered the exit program to senior, non-management employees in its space and intelligence systems unit, which has sites in El Segundo, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach and Torrance.

Boeing said it had received a sufficient number of volunteers during the two-week period that ended Friday, so involuntary layoffs are unlikely.

The Chicago-based company said the reduction in its 5,500-employee workforce is necessary because of changes in the way it designs and builds satellites -- not because of a lack of orders or cutbacks in federal spending.

Several years ago, nearly every satellite Boeing built was a one of a kind. In order to make the spacecraft more affordable to customers, Boeing began to develop more commonality in satellite design and introduced a production line. As a result, the upfront engineering design work has been reduced.  

“We believe we will have a surplus by the end of the year in those types of jobs, however this voluntary layoff offering has been made available to all employees within those job classifications, including those who are not in engineering,” said Craig R. Cooning, general manager of Boeing's space and intelligence systems.

The company's backlog of satellites is now 29, excluding classified work for the government. Although that's a far cry from Boeing's heyday in the 1990s when that number consistently hovered around 50, it is about double the number of nearly a decade ago.

The company had been in the midst of a business drought and recovering from development problems with its new generation of commercial satellites up until Cooning was put in charge of the business in 2008 and implemented changes.

Last year, Boeing received orders for seven satellites, five of them in the commercial market.


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