By Alwyn Scott
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Boeing Co (BA) said on Thursday it planned to eliminate up to 1,200 jobs in Washington state and move them to other U.S. locations as it reorganizes research and development functions.
The move will reduce Boeing's reliance on unionized engineers in the Seattle area, and follows other steps Boeing has made to move jobs outside the state this year.
Boeing is also entertaining proposals to place the factory for its newest jetliner, the 777X, outside Washington in part to avoid union conflicts. The $10 billion factory will generate an estimated $20 billion in economic benefits over the years to the winning state, according to one forecast.
In May Boeing said it would put design and support centers around the country, reducing those jobs in Washington. In October, it said it is placing significant amounts of engineering design work for the 777X outside Washington state.
On Thursday, Boeing said it plans to create research-and-technology centers at five locations around the country, which will add 300 to 400 jobs at each location. The centers will employ about 4,000 total. The centers are all in states that have proposed giving Boeing tax breaks or other incentives to attract the factory.
Boeing said Thursday's announcement was separate from the 777X contest.
"The decision on where to locate the 777x is not related to this realignment," said Tom Koehler, a Boeing spokesman.
The centers will be in Huntsville, Alabama; Southern California; St. Louis, Missouri; North Charleston, South Carolina; and Seattle.
The moves will be made with "a combination of layoffs, relocations, attrition and new hiring in the growth sites," Koehler said.
The reorganization will decrease the number of workers in the Seattle area by 800 to 1,200, Koehler said.
That includes 500 to 800 workers represented by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA). About 300 to 500 will be non-union workers or managers, he said.
SPEEA declined to comment.
"I am disappointed," Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee said of Boeing's plan to move the research jobs. He said the action shows why Washington is "working so hard to ensure the 777X and its carbon fiber wing are designed and built in our state."
Washington state last month approved $8.7 billion in tax breaks for Boeing and the aerospace industry if it builds the 777X in the state.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced the creation of up to 400 new jobs at the same time as Boeing announced the realignment.
The jobs are in addition to 400 that Boeing had already pledged to establish in Missouri, and will be eligible for tax credits of up to $16.8 million over six years, the state said.
"If there are jobs created and retained, there are going to be incentives," said Scott Holster, a spokesman for the governor.
Also on Thursday, the machinists union met for a third day with Boeing in Seattle in an effort to restart talks that could bring work on Boeing's new 777X jet to Washington.
The machinists strongly rejected a labor contract offer from Boeing that would have ensured the new 777X factory is located in Washington state. The rejection prompted Boeing to seek bids from more than a dozen other states.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)