Aircraft manufacturer Boeing is extending the temporary shutdown of its production facilities in the Puget Sound region and Moses Lake until further notice based on the current assessment of the spread of COVID-19, concern for the health of employees, recommendations from government health experts and as a result of continuing supply chain reliability issues.
The company in late March announced a 14-day suspension of production operations in the Puget Sound region and Moses Lake “to protect our employees and the communities where they live and work,” the company announced at the time. The announcement extending the shutdown indefinitely indicates that employees who can continue to work from home “should continue to do so.”
“The health and safety of our employees, their families and our communities is our shared priority,” says Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and Chief Executive Officer Stan Deal. “We will take this time to continue to listen to our incredible team and assess applicable government direction, the spread of the coronavirus in the community and the reliability of our suppliers to ensure we are ready for a safe and orderly return to operations.”
During the initial temporary production shutdown, employees unable to work remotely were offered paid leave for the first 10 days of the 14-day suspension period. The recent announcement of the indefinite shutdown of production operations in the area makes no mention of payment arrangements, although most employees whose jobs are affected should be eligible for unemployment payments under the expanded benefit provisions of the recently enacted federal coronavirus relief bill.
Media reports also indicate Boeing has offered early retirement and buyout packages to its 160,000 employees and several thousand workers are expected to accept the offer.
Prior to the onslaught of the coronavirus crisis, Boeing had already suspended production of new 737 Max aircraft starting in January 2020, indicating then that it planned to prioritize the delivery of the 400 aircraft it then has in storage. Prior to suspending production of the 737 Max, the company had continued to assemble about 40 of the 737 Max aircraft a month at the plant in the wake of the passenger jet’s grounding this in March 2019 following two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in less than half a year that together claimed the lives of 346 people.
Boeing’s factory in Renton where the planes are produced employed 12,000 workers across three shifts prior to the recent suspension of production operations. Statewide, as of Jan. 1, Boeing employed nearly 72,000 people, including its operations in Everette.