Weak Economy Hits Businesses, Leading To Layoffs

The Top Stories Of 1991

December 29, 1991|By Lorraine Mirabella

The year turned out to be one of the toughest in recent memory for county businesses, many of which struggled to survive a weakened economy by cutting costs wherever possible.

Even employers in a county once considered recession-proof cut back sharply on their work forces. Large private companies such as USAir and Martin Marietta laid off workers.

But Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group in Linthicum grabbed the most headlines, laying off more than 1,500 workers during 1991. This year was the first since 1985 that the county's largest private employer resorted to layoffs.

Westinghouse notified 1,300 Maryland workers at the end of October, including 800 in Linthicum, that they'd lose their jobs Dec. 30. The company included union jobs in the cuts,but allowed the unions until November to work out who would keep their jobs by virtue of seniority.

The defense contractor had announced the layoffs earlier, a result of defense cutbacks and reduced commercial and government orders. The layoffs came as part of a corporatemove to cut costs by $200 million next year, company officials said.

Company officials immediately set up an out-placement center in Woodlawn and took out newspaper ads in the hope that laid-off employees, like many of the 720 laid off in February, soon would find new jobs.

With full-page ads in local newspapers, the company attempted to alert employers of the availability of former Westinghouse accountants, administrators, secretaries, computer scientists, engineers and other positions.

At its outplacement center in Woodlawn, Westinghouse helped sharpen job search and interviewing techniques, posted jobopenings and offered individual counseling and workshops on financial planning, word processing and career changes.

The company had opened a similar center in February, when 720 Linthicum workers lost their jobs due to the Defense Department's cancellation of the Navy's carrier-based A-12 attack aircraft program.

Westinghouse had been developing radar and infrared systems for the new plane. But in January, General Dynamics Corp., one of the prime contractors on the A-12, issued a stop-work order to Westinghouse. The company was forced to make cutbacks across the board, including hourly, professional and management positions.

Spokesman Jack Martin Jr. said he believed the majority of employees who sought employment after being laid off in February found new jobs.

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