The announcement that the aerospace giant Boeing will cut as many as 30,000 jobs has sent shock waves through its workforce. The move follows cutbacks by the airline industry in the wake of last week's terror attacks in the United States. Boeing will downsize its worldwide operations, but the impact will be strongest on the U.S. West Coast.
The aircraft maker says the layoffs of up to 15 percent of its work force are in response to an anticipated 26 percent decline in commercial airplane orders over the next year.
Alan Mulally, the president of Boeing commercial aircraft, says his division plans to cut from 20,000 to 30,000 jobs by the end of 2002. He says the move is a reaction to a declining market.
"The airlines are going to reduce their capacity significantly, 20-30 percent right away," he said. "And that has an immediate impact, of course, on the Boeing Company as we supply new airplanes to replace their old airplanes and to support their growth."
Boeing's commercial aircraft manufacturing is centered near Seattle. In Long Beach, California, the company employs 5,000 workers at a plant that makes Boeing 717s.
Boeing announced earlier that it would cut 1,200 jobs at that facility. Lucia Ballard, an 18-year Boeing veteran, was told last week her job is being eliminated.
"I'm still in shock, to tell you the truth, because you put so many years of working with a company," she said. "When the company has been down, we've been there for them working a lot of hours. And it's all down the drain now."
Boeing official Alan Mulally said the job cuts are necessary, and company chairman Phil Condit said in a written statement the cutbacks are being made "in times of business uncertainty and financial stress."
If Boeing fully implements the job cuts, smaller West Coast firms that make aircraft components are also going to suffer. The fuselage for Boeing's 747, for example, is made in California, as are many smaller parts for the firm's commercial airplanes.