(Fred Lynch) [Order this photo]
Nearly 180 local union members have lost their positions since layoffs began Nov. 28, said David Bruckerhoff, business agent for the Teamster Local 600. In the latest announcement Friday, the losses were tied to the federal sequester, which went into effect March 1.
The sequester is a federal spending reduction plan enacted by Congress in August in an effort to avoid exceeding the debt ceiling. The across-the-board cuts hit military spending, as well as other programs, though Congress is exploring ways to lessen the load on defense.
The spending cuts are just the latest action by the federal government affecting Sabreliner.
Government and commercial planes serviced by Sabreliner are flying less often with the decrease in military activities in the Middle East, leading to fewer contracts to repair them, said Steve Sperry, Sabreliner's vice president of business development.
"Most of what we do is based on the number of hours an airplane is flown," Sperry said. If they are flown half as much, the time period between maintenance services is doubled, he said.
Sabreliner was aware the government accounts they service might be affected by the sequester, but it was difficult to plan for possible cuts, since lawmakers could have taken a number of possible actions that would have affected the industry in differing ways.
"It's tough to plan for what you don't know," Sperry said.
Sperry could not comment on whether future layoffs were pending, "out of deference and respect for the families involved."
As for the employees who already have lost their jobs, Bruckerhoff said the union is looking at each worker individually to evaluate their capabilities and possible placement opportunities. He said they are a highly skilled, multitalented group. Their positions at Sabreliner required expertise at a variety of tasks, including painting aircraft, upholstering seats, building cabinets and avionics.
There is no indication any of the positions will return should the sequester be resolved, Bruckerhoff said. Some workers already have found jobs. For the rest, he describes the outlook as bleak. Sabreliner offered work with good benefits and good pay, he said.
"It's hard to replace those types of jobs," Bruckerhoff said.
Carolyn Jones, director of the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Center in St. Louis, helps local industry connect with government contracts. As with Sabreliner, any company that provides goods and services to the government might be affected by the sequester. There are many local companies listed on the General Services Administration schedule for purchases, meaning they have been approved as potential suppliers, she said. The construction industry is particularly taking a hit, Jones said, as federal projects have been modified or halted.
The local Workforce Investment Board and Missouri Division of Workforce Development are involved in helping workers find employment.
Sabreliner's 200,000 square-foot flagship facility is structured at the Perryville Municipal Airport. Layoffs also have taken place at its Ste. Genevieve, Mo., location.
Perry County has remained stable in recent years amid the throes of the economic downturn. In December 2012, the projected unemployment rate for Perry County was 4.1 percent. Median income from 2007 to 2011 was $44,383 and the percentage of people living below the poverty level during that same period was 12.3, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Cape Girardeau County, unemployment was estimated at 5.3 percent in December, median income was $45,795, and 14.7 percent of the population was living below the poverty level from 2007 to 2011. Nationwide, numbers were 7.6 percent unemployment, $52,762 median income and 14.3 percent living below the poverty level during those periods.
"We certainly hope that the layoffs are temporary and quickly resolved once the federal budget issues are finalized. Our hearts and prayers go out to the individuals and families who are impacted," Perryville Mayor Debbie Gahan said Monday.
1390 Highway H, Perryville, Mo.
1040 Rozier St., Ste. Genevieve, Mo.