Spirit AeroSystems announces more than 1,400 layoffs in Wichita

Published: May. 1, 2020 at 4:25 PM CDT
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In a message to employees Friday, Spirit AeroSystems announced plans to lay off about 1,450 hourly and salaried employees in in Wichita.

The company says "it will reduce employment at sites supporting commercial programs a result of lower demand for commercial airplanes.

Spirit is a supplier to Airbus and Boeing, both reporting lower production rates for commercial aircraft to COVID-19's impact on the aviation industry.

"Our actions follow reduced demand from our customers, who have lowered production rates as demand for new airplanes declines due to the impact of COVID-19," says Spirit AeroSystems President and CEO Tom Gentile. "In addition to reducing employment, we are taking other initiatives to lower costs and preserve liquidity, which included raising $1.2 billion in high yield secured second lien bonds in April. We are focused on ensuring Spirit AeroSystems remains a healthy business and emerges from this crisis with a bright future."

Earlier this week, Spirit offered a voluntary-layoff option to union-represented employees in Wichita. Friday, the company issued a notice of layoffs to the State of Kansas under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

Spirit says the approximate 1,450 employees this affects will begin leaving the company on May 15.

"Later this month, smaller reductions will occur at Spirit's remaining U.S. sites that perform commercial work," the company says. "Spirit's global sites are reviewing workforce requirements and will announce their plans in the coming weeks."

In its continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Spirit says it has developed a partnership to manufacture medical devices in Wichita.

Approximately 700 employees will be transferred to this temporary special project that is expected to last through October and may go longer, depending upon demand," the company says. "Spirit will have more information to share on the medical device partnership in the near future."

Spirit says it's work on defense programs won't be impacted by the announced layoffs and "those operations will continue uninterrupted."

"While we are faced with difficult decisions during this unprecedented time in our industry, we remain focused on maintaining operations to support our customers, including the critical work we do on national security programs," Gentile says. "I remain confident in the future of the aviation industry and believe in our ability as a company to weather this pandemic and emerge stronger."