Bombardier to Lay Off 1,700 as Light-Aircraft Market Suffers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Airplane maker Bombardier announced Tuesday it plans a workforce reduction of about 1,700 employees and contractors at its facilities in the United States and Canada. That number includes 550 people in the company's Learjet facility in Wichita.

The Wichita cuts include 200 contractors who left the company in December after their contracts expired and were not renewed, said company spokeswoman Annie Cossette.

Cossette would not reveal how many of the remaining affected workers involved full-time Bombardier employees or company contractors, or when the layoffs are expected to begin.

The Montreal-based company said the U.S. workforce reduction will take place at its Wichita Learjet plant and its effects will be felt across all the Learjet programs. The layoffs include both union and non-union workers in assembly, manufacturing, engineering, sales and aftermarket programs.

The machinists union said 150 to 160 employees represented by its bargaining unit in Wichita are expected to lose their jobs.

"We have no indication to how long it will be. We think a lot of it is based on the market turning around. We are hopeful that these will be short-term," said Bob Wood, spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Bombardier's workforce in Wichita includes 3,000 employees and contractors.

"This is a decision, a very difficult decision we had to make in order to protect our business in the long term," Cossette said.

She blamed the workforce reductions on global market conditions, particularly in the light-aircraft segment that has been especially difficult for Learjet. The market for medium- and larger-size aircraft has not been as hurt in the global recession.

"These challenging market conditions for light aircraft are still persisting," Cossette said.

The company said it will be meeting with affected employees in the coming weeks, and some may transfer to 100 other open positions in Wichita.

The company builds its Learjet line of light business jets at its production plant in Wichita. It also has a network of service centers in Arizona, Kansas, West Virginia, Florida, Georgia and Connecticut along with a distribution center in Chicago.

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