Spirit AeroSystems [NYSE: SPR] announced today 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 of which announced lower production rates for commercial aircraft due to the impact of COVID-19 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," said Tom Gentile, President and CEO, Spirit AeroSystems. "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."
As part of the overall employment reductions, Spirit offered a voluntary layoff to union represented employees in Wichita, Kan. earlier this week. Today Spirit issued a notice to the State of Kansas under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act of layoffs affecting approximately 1,450 hourly and salaried employees at its site in Wichita. Spirit's Wichita employees affected by these layoffs are expected to begin exiting the company May 15. Later this month, smaller reductions will occur at Spirit's remaining U.S. sites that perform commercial work. Spirit's global sites are reviewing workforce requirements and will announce their plans in the coming weeks.
As Spirit continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by changing its work practices to keep employees safe, the company is also working directly to contribute to the fight against COVID-19. Spirit 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. Spirit will have more information to share on the medical device partnership in the near future.
Spirit's work on defense programs will not be impacted by these announced employment reductions and those operations will continue uninterrupted. Additionally, some employees currently supporting commercial programs may be transferred to available defense work, mitigating the number of employees who may be affected by these workforce actions.
"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 said. "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."