General Electric (GE) - Get Report aviation factory workers on Monday launched a protest, demanding that the industrial conglomerate shift its jet engine-making plants to ventilator production to fight the coronavirus.
The action, reported by Vice, came the same day that GE said it would cut 10% of its domestic aviation workforce - about 2,500 employees. In addition, GE will furlough about half its maintenance, repair and overhaul employees for three months.
The moves represent one of the first big layoffs by a large U.S. manufacturer, as the raging coronavirus pandemic shuts down markets in a wide array of industries.
At a news conference held by the Industrial Division of Communication Workers of America (IUE-CWA), GE workers said the layoffs of experienced workers would make ventilator production more difficult, according to Vice.
“If GE trusts us to build, maintain and test engines which go on a variety of aircraft where millions of lives are at stake, why wouldn’t they trust us to build ventilators?” said Jake Aguanaga, who works at a GE plant in Kansas, Vice reported.
GE’s health-care unit already is one of the country’s largest manufacturers of ventilators. So union members say other factories, such as those for jet engines, could be shifted to make ventilators.
Until the coronavirus hit, GE was beginning to show signs of a rebound from its woes of recent years, which were centered in its power and financial-services divisions.
Ironically, aviation was perhaps GE’s strongest unit as the company began to rebound.
At last check, GE shares traded at $7.93, up 4.1% in a rising broad market.