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Boeing to cut labor force at SC facility

Keywords: Tags  Boeing, aerospace, North Charleston, 787 Dreamliner, layoffs, contract workers, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — Boeing Co. said labor cuts at its South Carolina facility, which manufactures its 787 Dreamliner, aren’t related to current issues with the aircraft’s batteries but are "standard practice."

The North Charleston, S.C.-based unit of the parent’s Boeing Commercial Airplanes subsidiary said it is "reducing our reliance on contract labor," which has been part of its plan all along. It emphasized that it is not laying off "any direct Boeing Commercial Airplanes employees at this time."

A spokeswoman for Boeing South Carolina—who said the unit has more than 6,100 employees, including contract workers—declined to disclose how many people will be affected by the layoffs.

In line with "standard practice in the aerospace industry," the company regularly uses contract workers to supplement during production ramp-ups, Boeing said. The company is currently building five Dreamliners per month in South Carolina and at its main final assembly site in Everett, Wash., with plans to reach 10 per month by the end of the year.

Although the spokeswoman declined to break out the number of planes now being built in South Carolina, she pointed out that North Charleston is due to be building three per month by year-end.

The company said that, across Boeing Commercial Airplanes, it expects to hire 8,000 to 10,000 people in 2013, with overall employment at year-end "flat or slightly down" from the start of this year. It noted that as the South Carolina operations have grown over the past few years, contractors have been given opportunities to apply for direct-hire work, and "many have taken that opportunity."

In contrast to the Pacific Northwest, where most Boeing commercial aircraft employees are located, workers at Boeing South Carolina are largely non-union.

Last year, Boeing said it had launched two-year expansion programs at the South Carolina division designed to increase the size of two operations at the facility by more than 50 percent (, Sept. 6). Among them is the aft-body fabrication operation, which supplies 787 fuselage sections to both North Charleston and Everett.

About 50 Dreamliners that have already been delivered remain grounded while Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration attempt to resolve problems with the aircraft’s lithium-ion batteries. Chicago-based Boeing stressed that it hasn’t cut its overall production rate on the aircraft while the issues are being addressed. 

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