Union seeks ways to ease loss of 100 jobs at BAE

January 20th, 2016

News Coverage:

January 20, 2016 1:03 AM

Union seeks ways to ease loss of 100 jobs at BAE

Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

Just four months after dedicating a new $39 million facility near the airport, BAE Systems is eliminating up to 100 local jobs.

The British defense contractor plans to cut up to 10 percent of its positions in July, BAE spokeswoman Shelby Cohen said Tuesday in a statement. She estimated the company’s local workforce at 1,000.

“This action results from delays in certain programs and less-than-anticipated workload levels at this facility,” Cohen said. “It will help to ensure the company remains competitive in the dynamic commercial aerospace market.”

The company supplies Boeing with parts for use on military and commercial aircraft worldwide. 

Hourly and salaried workers will be affected, Cohen said. 

Brent Eastom, president of IUE-CWA Local 901, represents about 670 hourly BAE employees. He’s in negotiations with management to reduce the number of positions cut by offering older employees buyouts and early access to their pensions. 

The 45-day window for talks between union and management began Tuesday.

Based on the original notice, Eastom would lose 67 members. But by looking at various options, the losses could be “well below that number,” he said. 

Among the variables are how much work is designated for outside contractors and how much overtime is authorized. 

The affected positions are assembly solderers whose mean pay is $18.39 an hour, Eastom said. The workers don’t have in-demand skills such has the ability to operate computer numerical controlled – or CNC – machinery. “The work that we do is not necessarily skilled trades,” he said.

Even the local union leader acknowledged BAE needs to do some belt-tightening.

“I’ve seen over the last decade us not winning contracts, us not winning new business,” Eastom said. “What (BAE management) is saying is not necessarily untrue.”

By encouraging workers at the upper end of the scale to take retirement, BAE can lower costs for performing contracts, something customers often require for renewal, he said.

BAE held a ribbon-cutting in September at its new aviation electronics manufacturing center. The $46 million project included $7 million to move operations from leased space on the former GE campus.

The 334,000-square-foot center at 4250 Airport Expressway demonstrates the company’s commitment to the city, BAE officials said during the ceremony. 

Cohen said Tuesday that the decision to reduce staffing “absolutely” does not signal plans to pull out of Fort Wayne.