Westinghouse notifying 460 Md. workers of layoffs

January 30, 1993|By Ted Shelsby and Lorraine Mirabella | Ted Shelsby and Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writers

The local Westinghouse Electric Corp. division began notifying 460 workers yesterday that they would lose their jobs by the end of February because of the recent cancellation of a major electronic warfare contract.

The new round of layoffs, the second in recent months, brings the number of Westinghouse workers in Maryland to lose their jobs over the past two years to nearly 4,500.

Most of those who had been given notice left the Linthicum plant immediately after hearing from their supervisors yesterday.

"This was devastating to people who lost their jobs," said a woman nearing retirement, who declined to be identified, saying she was concerned for her job.

Leaving the plant on Aviation Boulevard after the 3:30 p.m. shift change, workers described the mood inside as somber. But employees had prepared themselves for the worst, they said.

"At this point in time, they're used to what's going on," said Susan Hancock of Pasadena, a quality assurance worker. "They've become accustomed to it."

Carrie Wesley, 39, of Glen Burnie, said her supervisors told her the company had abolished her job as a clerk typist, meaning she would be laid off eventually, perhaps as early as next week.

The news came as an especially hard blow because her husband John lost his job at the plant during layoffs in December, she said. Mr. Wesley remains unemployed.

Theresa Brooks of Baltimore said some of her friends learned yesterday they would lose their jobs, but, "I have more than 20 years here. I feel pretty secure."

But Patricia Cager's two decades at Westinghouse did little to reassure her. She worried that someone with more seniority could bump her out of her computer-operator job.

"I am scared to death," said Ms. Cager, 38, who came to work atWestinghouse out of high school. "I have a family and two kids. Everyone I know who lost their jobs last time are still unemployed."

Westinghouse blamed the latest job cuts on the Navy's decision in December to cancel production of the Airborne Self-Protection Jammer. ASPJ, as the multibillion-dollar military contract is known, was being developed to protect F-14 and F-18 fighter planes from ground-launched, radar-homing missiles by confusing enemy radar signals.

At one time, the system was expected to be installed on 800 Navy and Air Force planes, at a cost of up to $9 billion. The Air

Force, however, dropped out of the program in 1989.

In a notice to workers last week, Richard A. Linder, president of the Westinghouse Electronic Systems Group, said that up to 500 workers stood to lose their jobs if the Defense Department did not reverse its cancellation or reduce it to a "stop work" order.

Members of the Maryland congressional delegation have been lobbying the Pentagon and sending letters to Defense Secretary Les Aspin seeking to reverse the cancellation.

Their efforts have not proved encouraging. Daniel Walsh, an aide to Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrist, said the congressman could not reach Mr. Aspin on Thursday.

Mr. Walsh said Mr. Gilchrist talked with an assistant secretary-designate, Debbie Lee, yesterday and was told that Mr. Aspin has no intentions of reversing the decision. "This does not mean that we stop trying," said Mr. Walsh, "but we don't know what our next step will be."

Lt. Sharon Heath, a Navy spokeswoman based at the Pentagon, said the Navy canceled ASPJ "because it did not pass operating tests."

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