Renewed worry at Westinghouse unit

January 12, 1994|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Staff Writer

After years of suffering layoffs and contraction, the local defense arm of Westinghouse Electric Corp. was given a new reason yesterday to be nervous about the future of jobs.

With its announcement that it would eliminate 6,000 jobs, 3,400 through layoffs, over the next two years, the Pittsburgh-based conglomerate offered little additional information to ease the anxiety of its people at the Linthicum-based Electronic Systems Group. After a similar call for work-force reduction in October 1991, 1,300 Electronic Systems workers were laid off.

"With regards to today's announcement by the corporation, we do not anticipate any major work-force reduction at this time," said Jack Martin, a spokesman for the local division. "However, we are constantly reviewing our processes and work loads to improve our competitive position in a very dynamic market place."

At a news conference in New York, Westinghouse's chief executive, Michael H. Jordan, said the Electronic Systems Group could suffer some layoffs, but said the company had not yet decided whether they would occur at the division's headquarters or at operations outside the state. He emphasized, however, that the division is part of the company's long-term plans.

In late 1991, when Westinghouse said it would eliminate about 4,000 jobs to help offset a big loss in corporate profits, the local division bore a major share of these cuts. The Electronic System Group's 1,300 subsequent layoffs were on top of 1,200 layoffs earlier in the year as a result of the Defense Department cancellation of the Navy's A-12 attack plane.

In December 1992, the local division cut 1,400 jobs because of defense cutbacks and the sluggish economy. In early 1993, 460 people lost their jobs after the Pentagon halted work on an electronic jammer for use on fighter planes.

Through layoffs and attrition, Westinghouse has eliminated about 7,000 jobs in Maryland over the past three years, to reduce its work force here to about 10,000.

The local division has struggled in recent years because of the sharp decline in military spending and the recession, which has hindered its thrusts into nonmilitary markets.

For the first nine months of 1993, the company reported that sales of Electronic Systems fell between 10 percent and 15 percent, and operating profits were down more than 20 percent.

Electronic Systems has been primarily a defense contractor for more than 50 years. A plant in Baltimore developed the radar that detected the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor. In more recent years, it supplied the radar for the F-16 fighter plane, and it is working on a variety of military projects, including developing the Longbow electronic warfare system for the Army's attack helicopters and radar for the F-22 fighter plane.

Electronic Systems is trying to lessen its dependence on the Pentagon budget by moving into new commercial markets. Its goal is to have 50 percent of its business coming from non-Defense Department sales by next year.

But analysts see a difficult road ahead for Electronic Systems. Sales have dropped from $3.2 billion in 1991 to $2.87 billion in 1992.

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