Waiting, worrying and then the worst - that's the world of many of the 1,200 Hercules Aerospace workers in Utah who were laid off in the past seven months.
"We were told that ours was going to be today," said a laid-off worker Monday - that is, his department had learned earlier that it would take a hit on that day."We didn't realize it was going to be as significant as it was," said the worker.
The man, who did not wish to be identified publicly, was among 475 whose jobs are being terminated in the latest round of cuts. Hercules says this is the end of a round of job eliminations that began last year. But the rumor at Hercules is that more reductions will be announced in May.
Hercules isn't alone in reductions. The entire aerospace industry has been going through a painful shakeup, prompted by Congress slashing the federal military budget. That, in turn, was prompted by the apparent collapse of a credible military threat from the Soviet Union and its former allies.
Many companies involved in rocketry or the military aircraftindustry have been cutting jobs to become more competitive in the marketplace. Hercules has been hurt doubly, however, by the industrywide squeeze and by the explosion of its first Titan IV rocket motor.
The destruction of the prototype Titan IV SRMU (Solid Rocket Motor Upgrade), at Edwards Air Force Base on April 1, forced the company to halt the motor's production line while investigators try to piece together the cause of the incident.
So in addition to the approximately 900 jobs that were planned to be eliminated through downsizing, Hercules laid off another 300 connected with the Titan program. It has no plans to rehire anyone soon.
Hercules workers have faced enormous pressures over the past few weeks. According to one story, an earlier layoff at the company's Computer Services Department was heralded by the appearance of boxes, which were brought in on a Friday to be used by terminated employees when they cleaned out their desks. Each worker was left wondering whether he or she would have to use the boxes on the following Monday when layoffs would be announced.
The employee said that on Monday morning, "The supervisor called me in and I knew what he wanted; just called us in individually and told us we were the chosen few."
Some employees were told they had lost their jobs when they arrived at work Monday morning, while others learned later in the day. As soon as they could clean out their desks, they left the plant. Workers had to return at a later time, often the next day, to check out with the Personnel Office.
The laid-off worker who spoke with the Deseret News said he had been preparing for the layoff. He said was worried about instability in the aerospace industry and had begun compiling lists of job possibilities before Monday's announcement.
In a news release announcing the layoffs Monday, R.G. Peterson, vice president and general manager of the Utah Aerospace Division, struck an optimistic note.
"The actions we have undertaken in recent months are essential for success in today's aerospace industry," Peterson said. "We're facing not only U.S. competition but foreign competition as well."
He said he is confident the streamlined Utah operation would prove its competitiveness throughout the rest of this century. "We have the world's newest and best rocket motor facilities, and we have the people to match those facilities," he said.
Peterson pointed out that in light of the cutbacks and other problems, it's easy to overlook the company's many successes.
"During the past four months, we have had three successful Delta (rocket) launches and have secured a follow-on contract that extends the Delta program through 1995."
Hercules got orders and options for more Pegasus rockets, and the second test flight of the Air Force's Small ICBM - the "midgetman" for which Hercules builds a stage - was a complete success. "Our Navy programs continue to meet or exceed customer requirements," he said.