Westinghouse will lay off 1,200 workers in state by year's end

October 12, 1991|By Ted Shelsby and Michael K. Burns David Conn and Kim Clark of The Sun's Business staff contributed to this article.

Buffeted by rumors of impending layoffs for weeks, workers at Westinghouse Electric Corp.'s Maryland operations had their fears confirmed yesterday as the company announced it will lay off 1,200 workers here before the end of the year.

Though Westinghouse will remain the largest corporate employerin the state, the layoffs will leave the Electronic Systems Group, centered at a complex in Linthicum, at its lowest level of employment in more than 30 years.

"I hope it's not going to catch me -- it's been a bad year already," Jack Trotta, a draftsman, said as he left the company's sprawling complex at Baltimore-Washington International Airport yesterday. Mr. Trotta, who separated from his wife a year ago, said that he is trying to sell a house to settle accounts and that a layoff would pinch doubly tight.

He is worried that his 14 years of seniority might not be enough to protect him. During a round of 1,200 layoffs in February, managers with 25 years' service were let go, and "this time, it'll take more time to stay."

And Jim Gaskin, with 10 years' service, sees his part-time collegework toward an engineer's degree threatened. "With a wife and house payments, I can't afford to continue in school without this job," he said.

Workers at the BWI plant first learned of the layoffs as they returned from lunch and were greeted by a pile of bulletins printed on green paper.

As of yesterday, no individuals had been told they would lose their jobs, Jack Martin, a Westinghouse

spokesman, said, but the company expects to notify most of the affected employees by the end of the month and deliver the last of the pink slips by Nov. 15.

The new round of layoffs at the Electronic Systems Group comes on top of 1,200 jobs eliminated in February when Defense Secretary Dick Cheney canceled the Navy's A-12 attack aircraft program. The new layoffs will cut the company's total employment in the state to 12,800. As recently as 1989, Westinghouse employed 17,000 people here.

Mr. Martin said that the bulk of the layoffs will come from the ranks of the 10,000 workers at the group's sprawling complex adjacent to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and at its Hunt Valley plant. He said that the company does not expect layoffs at its anti-submarine warfare plant in Sykesville or its sonar systems development center in Annapolis.

Mr. Martin said he did not know whether any of the approximately 130 workers at a Columbia robotics operation will lose their jobs.

"The cuts will be across the board," said Mr. Martin, and will involve management officials, engineers and other professional personnel as well as hourly workers.

The apprehension about layoffs has been growing at Westinghouse's operations here since Monday, when corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh revealed plans to eliminate up to 4,000 workers from its worldwide employment base of 115,000.

Paul E. Lego, chairman and chief executive, said that the layoffs were necessary to offset a big loss in corporate profits. He said the cuts were designed to trim operating costs by $200 million next year.

The company blamed the bulk of its financial problems on the poor performance of its Financial Services Division in Pittsburgh, which is involved in the troubled commercial real estate lending field.

Gary Eder, president of the Salaried Employees Association, which represents about 1,700 workers in Maryland, said that he was surprised by how many of the cuts came from the operations here. "Personally, I think they should come out of the Financial Services unit where all the problems are," he said.

To try to minimize the impact the layoffs, Mr. Eder plans to meet with plant officials next week to see whether subcontracting jobs can be brought back to the BWI plant.

In a bulletin to workers, Richard A. Linder, president of Electronic Systems Group, said about 1,600 employees would be "permanently separated." He said 400 jobs would be eliminated outside Maryland, primarily at a torpedo plant in Cleveland and at a complex in Sunnyvale, Calif., where the company makes rail-car launchers for the Peacekeeper missile.

Linder attributed the bulk of the Maryland layoffs to a slowdown in Defense Department purchases of radar units used in the F-16 fighter plane and a delay in contracts for an upgraded anti-submarine system being built at Sykesville.

In his bulletin, Mr. Linder said the complex has been hurt by delays in the Federal Aviation Administration's orders for ground-based radar systems used at commercial airports to direct the takeoffs and landings.

Mr. Martin said that Westinghouse could not predict whether any of the eliminated jobs might be restored if those delays end. He said employment would be linked directly to future business volume.

State economic development officials have referred to Westinghouse in the past as a locomotive that helps pull Maryland's economy.

HISTORY IN MARYLAND

1938

Early work on radar conducted by several dozen workers at Baltimore's Wilkens Avenue plant.

1951

/# Linthicum airport complex opens

1957

-! Linthicum West Building added

1960s

Employment reaches 16,000 as Westinghouse adds administration services complex at Linthicum.

1989

+ Employment peaks at 17,000.

Feb. 1991

PD 1,200 jobs eliminated in wake of a-12 attack plane cancellation.

Dec. 1991

1,200 more layoffs in Baltimore in wake of financial services losses in Pittsburgh unit.

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