SEATTLE (AP) -- A Boeing Co. plan to increase job cuts to about 6 percent of its work force this year drew a skeptical response from a key union leader Wednesday, even though production workers appear likely to be spared.
In a conference call Wednesday after Boeing reported a $56 million quarterly loss, chief executive W. James McNerney announced that another 5,500 jobs would be eliminated in addition to 4,500 job cuts announced earlier this month.
A Boeing spokesman in Chicago, John Dern, said the cuts would be made through attrition and layoffs.
"We wouldn't expect to see, relatively speaking, the kind of reductions in production and engineering as we would in overhead functions," he added.
Mark Blondin, aerospace coordinator for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents about 27,000 Boeing production workers, noted that Boeing still has a record backlog of 3,700 planes on order.
"If those jobs were necessary then, why are they superfluous now?" Blondin said. "It's disappointing to this community when anybody loses their job."
At the same time, he added: "It's obviously an indication of the economic downturn that this country is facing right now. Maybe this new (Obama) administration will be able to get things moving in the right direction again."
Ray Goforth, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, a Seattle-based union representing more than 20,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers, said McNerney was sending mixed messages.
Boeing boosted dividends by 14 percent last month, "and that's saying they have more money than they know what to do with," Goforth said.
With Boeing also anticipating an increase in per-share earnings for 2009, he added, "This doesn't look like a company that needs to lay off people."
Instead, Boeing should be hiring more production and engineering workers to get planes out the door faster and "convert orders that it has on paper to cash on hand," Goforth said.
Chicago-based Boeing, which assembles its commercial aircraft in the Seattle area, reported a fourth-quarter loss of $56 million, or 8 cents per share, on Wednesday. That compared with profit of $1.03 billion, or $1.36 per share, a year earlier. Results were dragged down by charges totaling $1.79 per share, including the effects of last year's Machinists union strike and delayed deliveries of 747 jets.
For the year, Boeing reported earnings of $3.99 billion, or $3.71 a share, on revenues of $60.9 billion, down from profits of $5.8 billion, or $5.28 a share, on revenues of $66.4 billion in 2007. For 2009, it forecasts earnings per share of $5.05 to $5.35.
Associated Press writer Doug Esser contributed to this story.