Two weeks after temporarily shuttering its Puget Sound operations, Boeing has further contracted manufacturing by closing the 787 facility in South Carolina, affecting about 7,000 workers. At the same time, Airbus is closing its Mobile, Alabama, plant, where it makes A220 and A320 aircraft. Both are the result of expanding shelter-in-place guidance being rolled out on a state-by-state basis. Boeing reacted in Washington after one of its workers died from COVID-19; this shutdown, intended to last two weeks, has been extended indefinitely.
Airbus says it will not lay off any workers at this time. Those who can work remotely will do so, and those who cannot will be paid through what it expects to be a three-week pause in production. For Boeing, the situation is similar, with employees who can work at home remaining on the job, and factory workers getting full pay over the next two weeks. Boeing closed its Washington-state plant on March 25 and predicted it would be down for at least two weeks. In both cases, the company says employees who cannot work remotely will only be paid for those first two weeks and will have to use paid time off to be kept on payroll or can choose to seek unemployment compensation. Boeing has been in the process of incentivizing early retirement and other separation options in light of the expected drop in demand throughout 2020.
“It is our commitment to focus on the health and safety of our teammates while assessing the spread of the virus across the state, its impact on the reliability of our global supply chain and that ripple effect on the 787 program,” said Brad Zaback, Boeing’s 787 GM. “We are working in alignment with state and local government officials and public health officials to take actions that best protect our people.” South Carolina was one of the holdouts in establishing social separation to help reduce the spread of the virus.