Boeing [BA] on Sunday said it would extend until further notice a temporary suspension of its production operations in the Puget Sound region of Washington State due to continuing challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company previously initiated a two-week temporary suspension of its Puget Sound operations that began on March 25 and was scheduled to lift on April 8, but Boeing said this week that the production suspension would continue “in light of the company’s continuing focus on the health and safety of employees, current assessment of the spread of COVID-19 in Washington State, the reliability of the supply chain and additional recommendations from government health authorities.”
Boeing builds the 777 and 787 widebody commercial aircraft, the Air Force’s KC-46 tanker and Navy’s P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft in Washington. The company is working to minimize impacts on its mission, a Boeing spokesman told Defense Daily on Monday.
Work continues to be done on the Remote Vision System enhancement for the KC-46, the spokesman said. This work is being done by employees working remotely, he said.
The company has about 72,000 employees in Washington. About half of the employees can work remotely and the other half are involved in touch labor. Mission essential employees involved in production operations can volunteer to come into work and will be paid.
Under the initial suspension, Boeing is providing paid leave for the first 10 days. After Wednesday, employees that can’t work remotely or come to work can begin using paid time off or choose absent without pay. Medical benefits for these employees will be continued, the spokesman said.
Employees that are absent without pay are eligible for unemployment benefits or can work part time elsewhere.
During the prolonged shut down, Boeing said it will enhance its cleaning of work and common areas, stagger shift times to reduce the flow of employees arriving and departing work, and provide new visual cues to encourage physical distancing.
“The health and safety of our employees, their families and our communities is our shared priority,” Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes segment, said in a statement. “We will take this time to continue to listen to our incredible team and assess applicable government direction, the spread of the coronavirus in the community and the reliability of our suppliers to ensure we are ready for a safe and orderly return to operations.”
Boeing last week shut down production operations at a facility outside of Philadelphia where it produces the H-47 Chinook helicopter, the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, and the MH-139A helicopter, due to concerns over COVID-19. The plant will be shut down through April 20.
Separately on Monday, Boeing said it will suspend operations indefinitely at its 787 aircraft production facilities in South Carolina due to the pandemic. The temporary shutdown begins at the end of the second shift on Wednesday, the company said.
“It is our commitment to focus on the health and safety of our teammates while assessing the spread of the virus across the state, its impact on the reliability of our global supply chain and that ripple effect on the 787 program,” Brad Zaback, vice president and general manager of the 787 Program and Boeing South Carolina site leader, said in a statement. “We are working in alignment with state and local government officials and public health officials to take actions that best protect people.
Boeing said it will use the time during the suspension to bolster cleaning of its facilities in South Carolina and to continue monitoring the global supply chain.
As with its affected production operations in Puget Sound and Philadelphia, employees in South Carolina who can work remotely will continue do so. Workers who cannot work remotely will receive paid leave for 10 working days of the suspension. Afterward, workers will have the option of using paid time off or they can file for unemployment.