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Aviation

Spirit AeroSystems To Implement 'Phased-in Return To Work' For Some Employees

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Elaine Thompson/AP/NPR
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Now that Boeing has announced it will resume production on its commercial airline programs, Spirit AeroSystems says it plans to call back some of its employees.

Spirit AeroSystems says it will begin a “phased-in return to work” for some of its furloughed employees.

The statement follows an announcement Thursday by Boeing that it will resume commercial airplane production at its Seattle-area facilities next week.

“As our customer Boeing begins to resume production, Spirit AeroSystems will work with our employees, customers and suppliers to begin a phased-in return to work for some furloughed employees,” Spirit said in a statement.

“This will be a slow process as we work to continue to support our customer’s operations in a manner that is safe for all involved.”

Spirit announced a two-week furlough in March after Boeing announced a similar move for its employees. Spirit is Boeing’s largest supplier and makes structures and components for every Boeing airliner.

Spirit was preparing to return to work earlier this month when Boeing announced it was extending its furlough.

As a result, Spirit began a 21-day furlough of employees who do production work on any of the company’s Boeing programs. It also announced that employees not furloughed would begin four-day work weeks indefinitely, and that the company's executives would take a 20 percent pay cut.

Spirit is the city’s largest private employer and the bulk of its roughly 10,000 employees work on Boeing programs.

Boeing said it plans to put about 27,000 people back to work. Employees for the 737, 747, 767 and 777 airplanes will return as early as Monday with most returning to work by Tuesday, officials said. Employees for the 787 program will return next Thursday and Friday.

Boeing this week restarted mostly defense production operations in the region with approximately 2,500 people. Operations at Boeing South Carolina remain suspended, officials said.

Boeing said it has taken extra precautions and instituted comprehensive procedures at all of its sites to fight the spread of COVID-19. That will include the use of face masks and other protective equipment, hand-washing sites and employee wellness checks, among others.

“This phased approach ensures we have a reliable supply base, our personal protective equipment is readily available and we have all of the necessary safety measures in place to resume essential work for our customers,” Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a news release.

Boeing’s shutdown went into effect March 25 after workers tested positive for the virus and a longtime inspector for the company died.

Boeing also says it will resume work on restarting production of the 737 Max, which was grounded last year following two fatal crashes. The 737 Max assembly lines have been halted since January pending FAA clearance of Boeing’s proposed fixes for the flight control system implicated in the crashes.

In January, Spirit announced it would lay off 2,800 employees because of the continued grounding of the 737 Max. Spirit makes 70 percent of the plane and the program represents 50 percent of the company's annual revenue.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.