Until some programs are completed early next year, the extent of layoffs at the Hercules Bacchus Works of Hercules Aerospace Co. won't be known.

That word comes from David L. Nicponski, manager of government affairs, who said some layoffs are occurring at the company's rocket motor winding facility at the Clearfield Freeport Center, which employs about 600. He did not elaborate.In the face of some news reports that said the layoffs could reach 1,000, Nicponski said there is no way of telling how many people could be laid off until the programs are completed in the first quarter of 1991. Nicponski doubts the layoffs will be that big, considering the amount of work the company has under contract.

He said no programs will be shut down and the demand for both government and commercial rocket motors has intensified. "Hercules is responding to that by improving its competitive position," he said.

On Oct. 12, Ron Peterson, Hercules vice president and general manager, issued a press release saying the company had initiated an effort to improve its competitiveness.

He referred to an inter-office memorandum sent to all employees notifying them there will be some reductions in the work force. "It is difficult at this time to estimate the total time it will take for us to complete all these initiatives," he wrote.

To stay competitive, Peterson said, the Bacchus Works employees must make some changes in the "way we do business if we expect to survive well into the future."

Peterson said, "Of late we have taken actions that will result in eliminating non-productive activities, reducing supervisory ratios, projecting where practical, tightening indirect spending and implementing improved financial controls and management systems."

He said the company has commissioned a study team to work with management in an effort called Operations Profitability Improvement to identify "truly value-added work, efficiency measures, expense reductions and compatible staffing levels."

Hercules' headquarters is located in Wilmington, Del., and operates two business groups in Utah. The aerospace group has operations in Bacchus, West Valley City and Clearfield and employs 3,500 while the advanced materials and composite group employs about 1,000.