David Michelson doesn't recall exactly how his department head informed him he was losing his job. But he said the news came as no surprise.
"Basically, he handed me a letter and gave me the news. Very straightforward," Michelson said. "I think the managers were
basically told what to say. I think they wanted to say more."
After weeks of anxious waiting, employees at Westinghouse Electric Corp.'s area operations are finally learning who will be among the 1,300 workers to lose their jobs Dec. 30.
Supervisors began holding private meetings yesterday with the affected workers.
Also yesterday, the company began talks with union officials to work out the seniority and bumping rights issues that will determine who goes and who stays.
"We've all known the layoffs were coming for a couple of months," said Michelson, who is a data base administrator. "The rumors began circulating months ago and they just kept escalating.
"I wasn't real surprised when I got my notice because I was fairly new to the department," he said.
Michelson said he had worked for Westinghouse for six years. He has spent the last year in the new position of data base administrator, a job for which he was still receiving training.
The cuts, the second large-scale round of layoffs at the company this year, will mean the loss of 800 jobs at Westinghouse's plant near Baltimore-Washington International Airport and 500 at a Hunt Valley site.
The operations targeted for layoffs are primarily engaged in the design and manufacturing of communications and radar systems for civilian and military uses. The cuts will be broad, from secretaries to engineers to production workers, said Jack M. Martin Jr., a company spokesman.
"We've experienced a decline and delays in new orders," Martin said, explaining the cutbacks.
The firm's corporate headquarters has announced plans to eliminate 4,000 workers from its worldwide employment base of 115,000. 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 field of commercial real estate lending.
In February, Westinghouse eliminated 1,200 jobs when the Navy canceled its A-12 attack aircraft program. The latest cuts mean employment at Westinghouse, one of the state's largest employers, will dwindle to 12,800, down from a peak of 17,000 in the late 1980s.
A 29-year-old resident of Columbia, Michelson said he will take some time after leaving his job in December to consider various alternatives, including a career change, volunteer work, or going back to school.
"Fortunately, I'm single," Michelson said. "I don't have any kids or major bills.
"I know people who have families and mortgages and they've been thinking about this for a while," he said.
Michelson said the mood at Westinghouse has been strained since the company announced earlier this month that a second round of layoffs were imminent.
"It's been very tense," Michelson said. "I haven't been able to sleep very well these past few weeks.
"No real work has been done around [Westinghouse]. The people with families and mortgages were really on edge," he said.
Employees continue to be on edge as they predict more layoffs for Westinghouse unless the economy improves immediately.
"Everyone's scared," said a 13-year employee of Westinghouse who did not want to be identified. "I don't care who you are or how much time you have, this is affecting everyone."
To assist employees through the layoffs, Westinghouse has set up a special center for employees to go for advice on resume writing, interviewing, and other job-hunting necessities. Job fairs will also be held as the company tries to find jobs elsewhere for the employees, Martin said.
Workers covered by a union contract will retain recall rights but, Martin said, "We do not anticipate any recalls or rehiring in the near future."