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Boeing to cut another 5,000

The continuous wave of pink slips at Boeing has lowered morale among its workers, and presented social and economic challenges to those laid off. Another round of warning notices went out to Boeing workers last week announcing that the company is cutting another 5,000 jobs in 2003. Since last year the company has handed out layoff warnings to 20,750 people in the Puget Sound area and has laid off 15,650 of them. Company-wide, Boeing has notified 31,850 workers they face layoffs.

As of Nov. 7, the company's workforce in Washington state numbered 62,300, with the majority working in Western Washington. The Washington payroll stood at 104,000 in 1998.

These numbers are daunting but one agency, Work Source Aerospace Transition Center at Paine Field in Everett is helping some of these workers through the process. Funded by the state and federal governments and through grants, Work Source trains laid off Boeing and other aerospace employees for new careers. It also helps them deal with other issues related to their employment severance.

"This can be a very emotional time for people," said Lisa Hanks, director of Work Source. "The series of layoffs since Sept. 11, 2001 is very different from the last big Boeing layoffs during the 1990s. Then people with one or two years were getting laid off. Now we are seeing career employees with 20 to 30 years under their belt facing unemployment."

"Many of these workers expected to retire from Boeing."

Hanks says in some cases, Boeing is more than just an employer. Losing a job with the company means the loss of a support system and friends.

A large portion of Work Force's clients are unskilled in any trade but aerospace. That makes training essential.

"If they have been assembling wings for 30 years, they need new skills," Hanks said.

Another disturbing aspect of the transition from Boeing to a different career can be the drop in pay. Few employers offer wages on the same order as those paid by Boeing. To get back to that level can take time.

"Even with retraining it will take them awhile to get back to $20 or more an hour with good benefits," Hanks said.

Counselors at the Work Source center act as a crisis team whenever the company announces it will be handing out pink slips.

"We are there to give them some hope and direction," Hanks said.

The Work Force resource center can assist unemployed aerospace workers in keeping a routine by offering classes, computer work stations for job hunting and career counseling. Upon application and approval, money is available through Work Source for those who want to return to school for retraining.

To date about 1,700 ex- Boeing workers are registered with Work Source for additional schooling and training.

"We see many more than that number. Some just come in once or twice until they find another job," Hanks said.

Some 7,000 workers are expected to be laid off from Boeing subcontractors and according to Hanks. She said two subcontracting jobs are lost for for every Boeing layoff.

Boeing's airplane delivery rate has been in steady decline. The company delivered 527 jets in 2001, 380 in 2002 and is expected to deliver between 275 and 285 in 2003.

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