STRATFORD — The latest round of job cuts at Sikorsky Aircraft will exceed six percent of the helicopter maker's global workforce, the company announced November 21.
The reduction will impact mostly salaried workers, said Sikorsky Communications Director Paul Jackson.
"It's essentially to adjust our overall cost structure," said Jackson. He noted that the number of employees was no longer commensurate with company needs, largely due to international and domestic developments, including lower demand expected for the kinds of products and services Sikorsky offers.
"We have very tight global economics that impact our commercial business," said Jackson. In addition, "there's declining defense spending. Essentially, we have to adjust our overall workforce."
The announcement follows two other job reductions. The company announced in September it would cut three percent of its workforce, 567 jobs in all, with 419 jobs lost in Connecticut. The majority of those cuts will affect union workers in Stratford, who are still negotiating with management over which workers will be eligible for a voluntary separation package. In June, Sikorsky announced a 386-worker layoff.
Nearly half of Sikorsky's 18,000 workers are based in Connecticut.
"We had too many people," says Jackson, explaining that Sikorsky is readjusting after a significant increase in the number of employees several years ago.
"We're coming off a really big ramp-up," he said. "For the past five years, I'd say, our sales have doubled and we increased the number of our employees by 56 percent. So we had a lot of people working here."
The company is offering a voluntary severance package to workers age 55 and older with at least 10 years of service. Those interested in accepting the voluntary layoff have until Dec. 5 to submit a letter of intent, with the company setting Jan. 6 as the final day for agreements to be signed.
Sikorsky would then have a better idea of any further job cuts that would be needed, said Jackson.
Through the first nine months of 2011, Sikorsky made $5.2 billion in operating profits, according to its parent company, United Technologies Corp., largely due to U.S. defense contracts. The company is also facing government scrutiny over its billing practices, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, and is fighting a $90 million dispute with the Army related to alleged overcharges from 1999 to 2006.
However, business-activity projections for the next two years are cause for concern, says Jackson. He doesn't expect Sikorsky to reinstate laid-off workers during that time.
"The outlook is for 2012 and 2013 to be challenging years," he says. "After that we'll reassess. Hopefully, things will turn around.”
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