Boeing, under pressure to turn out airliners faster, said Tuesday that it expects to borrow up to 670 workers from Lockheed to meet a crush of orders for its 747-400 jumbo jets.
Many of the 100 Lockheed mechanics and electricians who have already volunteered to go to the Seattle area to work temporarily for Boeing faced layoffs after Lockheed completes production of its C-5 cargo planes for the Air Force in Marietta, Ga., next month. Twenty-six of those Lockheed volunteers started work Tuesday at Boeing’s mammoth airplane factory in Everett, Wash.
The addition of the Lockheed workers is expected to ease the frantic pace of work at Boeing, where many employees work 12 hours a day, seven days a week to catch up on delivery delays of three to six months. Boeing plans to borrow the workers for up to six months.
Kills Merger Rumor
The number of workers coming from Lockheed is small compared to the 17,000 Boeing employees who build the 747s and the 767s. Still, “they are trained workers. It should help,” said Jack Daniels, a spokesman for Boeing’s Aerospace Machinists union.
Boeing has orders for 172 of its new 747-400s for delivery through 1995.
According to John N. Simon, an aerospace industry analyst with Seidler Amdec Securities in Los Angeles, the agreement between the two aerospace giants cuts the ground out from under a rumor that Boeing might be about to buy Lockheed. “People knew Boeing was talking to Lockheed and assumed it was about a merger,” Simon said.
In apparent response to the quashing of the merger rumor, the price of Lockheed stock fell $1.375 a share to $49 on Tuesday in New York Stock Exchange trading. Boeing stock closed unchanged at $65.375 on the NYSE.
Simon added that although it is costly for Boeing to reach across the country to borrow hundreds of Lockheed workers, it probably makes sense for Boeing to do it. Besides already paying its employees for overtime work, Boeing has been hit with penalty fees by airlines for delivering aircraft behind schedule.
Boeing has acknowledged that it is experiencing growth problems, related to the huge orders it has received for aircraft. During 1988, Boeing, based in Seattle, received two-thirds of the non-Communist world’s orders for airliners.
Besides the Georgia workers, Boeing may borrow some workers from Lockheed’s Burbank plant. “We just received a proposal along those lines,” said Don Nakamoto, a spokesman for the Aerospace Machinists union in Burbank. He said layoffs over the last eight years have reduced Lockheed’s hourly work force there to 7,200 from 15,000.
Under the agreement between Boeing and Lockheed, Calabasas-based Lockheed will continue to be responsible for paying its workers who volunteer to work for Boeing. In addition to paying their wages, Lockheed will also reimburse the workers for lodging and transportation. The workers will be allowed to fly home to Georgia for brief visits every 90 days at the company’s expense, said John Wall, president of the Aerospace Machinists union in Marietta.
Lockheed said that Boeing would pay it an unspecified amount for borrowing the workers. The amount presumably would cover all wages and other expenses, but it is not known whether Lockheed will make a profit on the deal. Boeing declined to discuss the financial details of its agreement with Lockheed.
It is not the first time that Boeing has borrowed workers from a competitor. Between 1978 and 1982, Boeing borrowed between 500 and 600 workers from “various suppliers and contractors” to work on its 767s and 757s, said Boeing spokesman Paul Bender. He said, however, that the agreement with Lockheed, which has not been put in final form, is “probably larger in scope” than past agreements.
The 26 Lockheed people who started work in Everett on Tuesday are working under a preliminary form of the anticipated agreement.
The agreement was welcomed by Lockheed’s workers in Marietta, where layoffs have whittled the work force to 10,000 from the 20,000 employed there in 1987. Another 1,000 are expected to by furloughed by the end of this year.
“Work is work, no matter where it is,” Wall said. He said it is possible that Lockheed may recall between 40 and 100 workers in Marietta to replace some of the workers on loan to Boeing.