WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Spirit AeroSystems has told its 10,500 employees that the ongoing machinists strike at Boeing Co. may force it to look at a shutdown and temporary layoffs.
Most Spirit employees have been working reduced three-day work weeks since the strike began on Sept. 6. Boeing is Spirit's biggest customer.
Spirit President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Turner said in a memo to employees Wednesday that the company must look at other alternatives if the strike lasts much past October.
"These alternatives, in the worst case, include the possibility of broad shutdowns and temporary layoffs, possibly as early as November," Turner said in the memo. "Hopefully, this alternative can be avoided."
Turner said the situation is fluid, adding that the company is looking at all its options. He said the company will discuss those options with union leaders.
"A shutdown is clearly not our preference but may be necessary in the weeks ahead if the strike continues," he said.
Wichita could take a $5 million a week economic hit if Spirit lays off most of its employees, said John Wong, interim director of Wichita State University's Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs.
That figure doesn't include the impact on other vendors, he said. Temporary layoffs also would affect retailers and other businesses, especially if they linger into the holiday shopping season.
"With the loss of potentially millions of dollars of spending, it obviously looks dismal," Wong said.
About 27,000 Machinists, including 750 at Boeing's Wichita plant, went on strike after rejecting the company's contract offer by an overwhelming margin.
Despite the strike, Spirit has continued to build 737 fuselages and parts of other Boeing aircraft. But with Boeing plants shut down in the Pacific Northwest, Spirit has been unable to make shipments there and fuselages have been stacking up inside and outside the Spirit plant.
Spirit typically gets paid for parts upon delivery.
Spirit spokeswoman Debbie Gann said the company has been working with Boeing on payment terms.
"It's in their best interest to keep our line hot so when the strike is over we're able to supply product at the rate that they need it."