FORT WORTH – Bell Helicopter is offering an early retirement package to employees age 55 and older.
The announcement comes at a time when North Texas defense contractors are seeking ways to reduce expenses in anticipation of huge spending cuts under sequestration. The forced cuts, triggered March 1, were caused by the budget impasse in Washington.
“As you know, we are expecting a decrease in military programs in the coming years,’’ Bell president and CEO John Garrison wrote employees early Wednesday. “Sequestration remains a threat to our business.”
“While we don’t yet know the full impact that it will have, early indicators point to a significant reduction in U.S. government spending,’’ he wrote.
Bell offered a similar early retirement package last year. This year’s package is being offered to full-time, non-union employees with two or more years of experience, Bell spokesman William Schroeder said. The company didn’t provide any details about the buyout package
Several weeks ago, Lockheed announced a similar voluntary separation program. That package provides a lump-sum payment to those with 25 years of seniority.
Both aerospace companies have had recent layoffs. Bell, which has not had significant layoffs in recent years, last week announced 15 layoffs of hourly workers, with all but two people finding other positions within the company. In the past few months, Lockheed Martin has laid off more than 300 workers.
It’s still unclear whether the Pentagon will ask for across-the-board cuts of 5 to 8 percent to defense contracts, or whether agencies will have some discretion in making the reductions. The Budget Control Act of 2011 imposed $487 million in Defense Department cuts over the next decade.
To halt the sequester, Congress will have to pass, and the president sign, a bill extending routine government funding after a stopgap bill expires March 27. Otherwise, a partial government shutdown is anticipated.
The North Texas workforces at Lockheed and Bell exceed 25,000.
Any layoffs triggered by the sequester at Lockheed Martin will be announced companywide, Lockheed spokesman Ken Ross said earlier.
"As we have previously stated, if warranted, we will provide affected employees the full notice period required by jurisdictional WARN Acts for covered layoff activity at the appropriate time," he said.
In his message to employees, Garrison said that he anticipated V-22 quantity reductions impacting Fort Worth and Amarillo in 2013.