WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Employees are at Spirit AeroSystems are being offered the opportunity to leave their jobs voluntarily.
CEO Tom Gentile released the details in a letter to employees on Monday.
He says eligible employees in Wichita, Tulsa, and McAlester will have the opportunity to volunteer to be laid off "consistent with the terms of their applicable collective bargaining agreements. If you are one of these employees, you will be provided with your options and the detail on what it means of you."
The move comes weeks after the aviation manufacturer announced the suspension of the 737 MAX program.
Gentile says the voluntary layoffs come as the company lacks "clarity on the timing for resuming MAX production or a firm production rate schedule when it does resume."
Spirit released the following statement Monday afternoon.
"Spirit AeroSystems is evaluating a range of potential actions to reduce costs due to ongoing uncertainty regarding the 737 MAX. We do not know how long the pause in production will last, or what the production rate will be when it does resume. Part of our effort includes offering a voluntary layoff program for eligible employees. While no final decisions have been made on additional actions, we remain focused on doing what is in the long-term interests of Spirit, its stockholders and other stakeholders, including employees. We continue to work with Boeing on resuming production of the MAX. Our goal is to support Boeing as it works toward a safe return of the MAX to service."
The news comes as Spirit employees returned to work Monday following an extended holiday break. Cornell Beard, a business representative for the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 70, says the having a layoff would be difficult as the chances of laid off employees returning to Spirit "would really kind of be slim."
"I mean, you take your experience now and you go someplace else," Beard says. "If you uproot your family and move and you do that for 25 cents more, are you gonna come back for 25 cents less?"
Employees who spoke with Eyewitness News Monday say it's unlikely workers will volunteer to leave Spirit on their own. And unless employees step up and accept a voluntary layoff, the union says layoffs (non optional) could be next.
"We are all expendable and we know the trickle down in Wichita starts with us," Spirit employee Randy Sebastian says. "We are all greatly concerned for the well-being and health of Spirit AeroSystems."
Still, many employees remain optimistic.
"They want to keep us here," Spirit employee Kyle Nance says. "Because, if you lose all you people, that's half your workforce right there. Yeah, they're trying everything."
Gentile says he and his leadership team are doing everything they can to avoid (non voluntary) layoffs and as difficult as this period has been, he believes Spirit will emerge a stronger company from its current situation.