Boeing has announced plans to shed hundreds of contract jobs at its North Charleston, S.C., facility where it builds 787 Dreamliners, but says the cuts are unrelated to current problems with the aircraft. The company said the cuts have already begun and are expected to run through 2013 as part of a cost-reduction initiative that pre-dated the aircraft's ongoing battery issues. At the same time, and over the same period, Boeing says it plans in 2013 to double the pace of production of 787 airliners made at the plant and a facility in Washington state.
Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel told The Wall Street Journal, "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. The reductions will reportedly hit contract positions and spread to staff only through attrition -- Boeing intends to not replace workers who retire, leave or are promoted. Meanwhile, the company in late February sent a proposal to the FAA regarding modifications to the lithium ion battery system that ignited in two separate incidents aboard line aircraft and led to grounding of the entire worldwide fleet of 50 Dreamliners. The manufacturer hopes the FAA will clear the jets back into service by April.