Manufacturers Continue Hunkering Down

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Union Vote May Decide Plant Future...

A crucial contract ratification vote on the weekend could determine the fate of one of Bombardier's most historic manufacturing plants. Members of the Canadian Autoworkers Union (yes, the autoworkers union) were voting on a package that included layoffs and restructuring at the former de Havilland plant in Downsview, just north of Toronto. In exchange for concessions, the company is offering to keep the plant, the birthplace of such aviation icons as the Beaver and Otter bush planes and the DASH series of commuter airliners, open and operating. Otherwise, it will be mothballed and production shifted to Montreal. The Downsview plant is also home to Bombardier's Global series of business jets, and the latest in that line made its maiden flight on March 7. The Global 5000 is intended to compete in the "super-large" category of business jets. The passenger cabin is more than 42 feet long, 8 feet high and 6 feet across. Takeoff weight for the inaugural flight was 77,000 pounds and the aircraft was flown as high as 45,000 feet and as fast as 340 knots. Preliminary flight-testing will be done at Downsview before the prototype heads to Wichita for the advanced flight program. The Wichita facility was spared in Bombardier's last round of job cuts but the bean counters are looking hard at cost-cutting there.

...Raytheon Considers Contracting Out

Bombardier isn't the only company looking at major shifts in its production. Raytheon has laid out a realignment of its operation that the Machinists Union claims could cost 3,400 jobs at the Wichita plant. Raytheon is contemplating a plan to contract out construction of all the major assemblies and parts on its aircraft and do only final assembly in Wichita. Company officials told The Wichita Eagle that the plan calls for the firm to concentrate on "core competencies" of customer support, design, development, testing, marketing and assembly. While the union vows to "fight with every bit of strength we've got" to maintain the jobs, Raytheon officials say they're trying to be creative with the downsizing. Spokeswoman Jackie Berger said many of the scenarios involve independent contractors taking over existing Raytheon plants, hiring current Raytheon employees and continuing to do essentially the same work as is now being done under Raytheon. There's also the possibility of outside companies hiring Raytheon workers to do the sub-assembly work at their own facilities. "Could we pull off something like that? I don't know," Berger told the Eagle.