Wichita Raytheon Aircraft Co. will outsource some of its wire harness assembly production to Mexico, laying off 350 employees in Wichita, the company said Friday.
"We worked hard the last several years to cut costs," said Tim Travis, a spokesman for Raytheon. "We sold off property, limited expenses, limited travel. Outsourcing remains the sole, viable course for cost cutting."
The first job cuts are expected early next year, as Raytheon contractor Labinal Inc. begins phasing in production. Labinal, a unit of France-based Snecma Group, is projected to fully take over production by the end of 2004 or early 2005.
Steve Rooney, District 70 president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said all the aircraft manufacturers in Wichita had been outsourcing jobs.
"It is no different in aerospace than the auto industry. Everybody is going to cheap labor," Rooney said. "People are going to have to get together and say enough is enough."
Also Friday, Raytheon told employees it was taking "initial steps" to explore outsourcing production of certain machine parts. That could affect an additional 60 to 70 jobs.
"We have publicly stated we are looking at all areas of our company to cut costs (to) where we can to be a profitable company," Travis said.
Labinal builds electrical wiring systems for several aviation companies, including Airbus, Boeing Co., and Lockheed Martin.
"This was a very difficult decision, and it was made only after fully exploring all other alternatives," David Shih, Raytheon's vice president of manufacturing operations, said in a statement. "This contract will improve our competitiveness in the industry and help return our company to profitability. We must pursue opportunities such as this to ensure that Raytheon Aircraft preserves as many jobs in Wichita as possible."
Rooney said workers in the harness assembly shop had been working with the company for two years to reduce costs after they were told the company was considering outsourcing their jobs. The team made improvements, increased production by 65 percent and met the goals the company asked for, Rooney said.
Early last year, Raytheon told the union it was once again considering outsourcing the jobs.
"These are not the results of 9-11, these are the results of companies that have used the disasters of 9-11 to further their own agendas," Rooney said.