Martin cuts 200 jobs at Middle River plant

January 10, 1995|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,Sun Staff Writer

Martin Marietta Corp. began the process yesterday of eliminating about 200 jobs at its Middle River plant by the end of the month, and the company warned that there will be additional layoffs in the months ahead.

Yesterday's layoff notices are part of a previously announced restructuring aimed at adjusting to a decline in business activity and boosting the plant's chances of survival after Martin's merger with Lockheed Corp. Some jobs will be eliminated through attrition and early retirements.

In a notice to employees, General Manager Robert B. Coutts said that the 200 job cuts, accounting for 14 percent of the work force at Middle River, will not be the last this year. The company said it has not determined how many additional layoffs are coming.

The Federal Trade Commission is expected to make its decision this week on the proposed merger of Bethesda-based Martin Marietta and Lockheed, and there has been speculation that the government will approve the plan.

The combined companies would be the nation's largest defense contractor, with 170,000 workers, including about 4,300 in Maryland. Annual revenues would be $23.5 billion, with a business backlog of $43.6 billion. The headquarters would remain in Bethesda.

In addition to boosting its prospects for new business, a spokesman for the local operations said, trimming the cost of doing business "should make us more attractive to Lockheed and increases our chances of survival."

"We are looking to get our overhead down and to be a lean producer," said Donald Carson, a spokesman for Martin Marietta's Aero & Naval Systems division.

The Middle River plant came close to being phased out last year as a result of Martin Marietta's acquisition of General Electric Co.'s aerospace division. Quick action by state officials is credited with helping to save the plant. The state helped the Middle River complex to cut costs by providing $900,000 to train workers and agreeing to lease a five-story office building.

Mr. Carson said the work force reduction will be split almost evenly between management and hourly workers and will affect nearly every department. The first of those being laid off were notified by supervisors yesterday afternoon.

Mr. Carson said that many of the jobs being eliminated have to do with the plant's production of thrust reversers used on commercial jetliners. Reduced orders for new planes are expected to reduce the Middle River plant's business by about 20 percent, or about $50 million, this year.

During World War II, Martin Marietta employed as many as 53,000 workers at Middle River. Although that number fell sharply over the years, the complex still employed more than 4,000 during the peak of the Reagan administration defense buildup in 1988. The latest work force reduction will drop employment to about 1,250.

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