COVID-19 impacts SC aerospace, Boeing to implement voluntary layoff plan in pandemic

VIDEO: Boeing voluntary lay-off

CHICAGO (WCSC) - Experts say the Coronavirus pandemic could impact South Carolina’s multi-billion-dollar aerospace industry.

The director of aerospace initiatives at the South Carolina Council of Competitiveness, Adrianne Beasley, said a decline in air travel has already strained aerospace companies, but that is not the only revenue source for manufacturers.

“Right now I think it’s just too soon to tell. I think that on the plus side, there are still planes being made and there are still lots of business to be had outside of just the commercial airline industry,” Beasley said. "The aerospace industry just like all industries is going to be facing those decisions of layoffs and furloughs and how are we going to get through this hopefully short term, really difficult period.”

Beasley said the lowcountry accounts for roughly 32 percent of the state’s total aerospace firms. According the SC Council of Competitiveness, the aerospace industry has a total economic impact of $28 billion statewide.

“A lot of people outside the state don’t really realize how much manufacturing plays into the South Carolina economy,” College of Charleston economics professor Frank Hefner said. “The large manufacturing plants will continue to be here. How much they’re producing though is a different story and what their labor force is going to look like is a different story.”

Boeing announces voluntary layoff plan

Boeing notified its employees that it will offer a voluntary layoff plan to its employees as the aerospace industry begins adjusting to its “new reality.”

A letter from Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun states plan will allow eligible employees who want to exit the company to do so with a pay and benefits package.

"This move aims to reduce the need for other workforce actions," Calhoun wrote.

The letter promises more details on voluntary layoff benefits, including which employees will be eligible and how the program will work, will be sent to employees “in three to four weeks.”

"We're in uncharted waters. We're taking actions — including offering this VLO plan — based on what we know today," Calhoun wrote. "They will bridge us to recovery as long as we're not confronted with more unexpected challenges. I can't predict with certainty what the next few months will bring, but I can commit to being honest about what’s happening and doing everything we can to protect our people and our business through this crisis."

Calhoun said the company would continue to deliver on commercial, defense and space, and services programs.

"We'll continue to drive the safe return to service of the 737 MAX. We'll continue to keep programs going wherever we can do so virtually and with confidence that we can keep you safe and healthy," he wrote. "And I will continue to be supremely confident that Boeing will not just emerge from the crisis but thrive again as the leader of our industry."

The letter states protecting the health and safety of the company’s people, their families and stakeholders are a top priority, adding Boeing leaders are “assessing and enhancing the safety” of all of its sites on a daily basis.

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