By David Shepardson
(Reuters) – Boeing Co <BA.N> said on Sunday it would extend the suspension of production operations at its Washington state facilities until further notice amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The largest U.S. planemaker said on March 23 it would halt production at its Washington state twin-aisle jetliner factory as a temporary measure to help fight the outbreak of the respiratory disease. Production had been expected to resume early this week.
Boeing declined to say when production could resume. It said the actions were “being taken 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 will stop paying about 30,000 production workers this week in Washington state after it previously doubled to 10 days the amount of paid leave it gave to production workers after the suspension. Employees can use paid time off, vacation and sick leave in the interim and will continue to get medical benefits.
Boeing said on Sunday about 135 members of its 160,000-person global workforce had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Seattle Times reported that as of Friday, Boeing had 95 employees who tested positive for the respiratory disease in Washington state, up from 54 a week earlier. The newspaper said 14 of those work at the Everett widebody jet plant.
During the suspension, Boeing will implement additional health and safety measures, including “new visual cues to encourage physical distancing,” more frequent cleaning of work and common areas and staggered shift times.
“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,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Stan Deal.
Boeing’s airline customers have deferred taking new aircraft and making pre-delivery downpayments, compounding a crisis over the year-old grounding of Boeing’s previously fast-selling 737 MAX jet after two fatal crashes. Boeing halted 737 production in January.
Boeing asked last month for at least $60 billion in U.S. government loan guarantees for itself and other American aerospace manufacturers to help the embattled industry withstand a coronavirus-related cash drain.
Boeing said last week it would suspend operations at its Ridley Township, Pennsylvania, facilities until April 20 because of the outbreak. The site includes manufacturing and production facilities for military rotorcraft, including the H-47 Chinook, V-22 Osprey and MH-139A Grey Wolf.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney)