Boeing offers 'voluntary' layoffs as coronavirus crisis continues

The coronavirus crisis and the temporary shut-down of Boeing's plants in Washington state have prompted the already struggling aerospace giant to offer voluntary layoffs for employees.

Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun said in a letter to workers that "it will take time for the aerospace industry to recover from this crisis."

"When the world emerges from the pandemic, the size of the commercial market and the types of products and services our customers want and need will likely be different. We will need to balance the supply and demand accordingly as the industry goes through the recovery process for years to come," Calhoun said in the note,

Boeing employees in the region had been speaking out before Boeing decided to temporarily close its plants last week, saying they were increasingly worried about the spread of COVID-19 as more coworkers tested positive for the virus.

As of last week (March 23), at least 25 Boeing workers in western Washington had tested positive for COVID-19, including at least one death, according to The Seattle Times. Boeing has more than 70,000 employees in the region.

Calhoun said the company is adjusting to its "new reality" through natural turnover and voluntary actions.

"To that end, we are initiating a voluntary layoff (VLO) plan that allows eligible employees who want to exit the company to do so with a pay and benefits package. This move aims to reduce the need for other workforce actions," he said.

He said employees will get more specific information on the voluntary offers in coming weeks.

Boeing was already having a bad year before the coronavirus pandemic essentially brought commercial airlines to a standstill. The company's 737 MAX jets have been grounded since March 2019 following two fatal crashes that revealed problems with the plane's software and a host of regulatory and oversight issues.