SEATTLE Boeing Co (BA.N) will cut hundreds of jobs at a South Carolina plant that makes 787 Dreamliners over the course of this year, but the move has nothing to do with the recent grounding of the troubled jetliner, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
The cuts, which chiefly target contract workers, are not uncommon as productivity improves on a new airplane program and were conceived before major problems with the 787s battery surfaced, the Journal said. Two high-profile battery malfunctions led to international aviation regulators grounding the jetliner in mid-January.
The cuts could account for up to 20 percent of the workforce in some teams at the plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, the Journal reported, citing an unnamed source familiar with the plan. Overall, the plant employs more than 6,000 people.
Boeing did not confirm the layoffs, but did tell Reuters it plans to reduce reliance on contract workers at the South Carolina plant.
"Boeing regularly uses contract labor and 'industry assist' to supplement its workforce during surge activities and on development programs that require a production ramp up - that's standard practice in the aerospace industry," said Marc Birtel, a Boeing spokesman. "As we progress in improving efficiencies in our processes, training our entry-level employees and growing the experience of our team in South Carolina, we expect to continue to reduce reliance on contract labor/industry assist to meet our production objectives."
The South Carolina plant is the second Boeing facility where 787s are assembled after the larger Everett, Washington, facility north of Seattle. Between them, Boeing turns out five Dreamliners per month.
So far, the plane maker has said production has not been slowed by the grounding of the 787 and it aims to fulfill its plan to ramp up to 10 787s per month by the end of 2013.
(Reporting By Bill Rigby. Editing by Andre Grenon)