Kevin O'Toole/LONDON

FOKKER IS CLOSE TO announcing a new wave of restructuring, with further workforce cuts expected to be on the agenda as the Dutch manufacturer attempts to match cutbacks made by its major competitors.

A decision on the scope of the rationalisation is due to be taken on 27 February, says a senior official at the company. "We're looking at a number of proposals on measures for further cost reduction. We don't exclude anything," he adds.

Fokker has already cut its workforce back to 8,500, shedding a total of around 4,000 jobs over the past few years, including 1,900 in 1994 as part of a broader plan to bring down costs.

The company had hoped to avoid another round of cuts, but says that it has been forced to react to the continued decline in aircraft prices in the second half of 1994.

Fokker has also been anxious to keep pace with the level of cost savings being made by its competitors, especially in the regional-jet market. British Aerospace's Avro operation has progressively cut its staffing from a peak of 7,000 down to only 1,950 assembly and marketing jobs, with more to go in the wake of the tie-up with ATR. McDonnell Douglas has also slashed numbers at Long Beach, California, by more than 70%, bringing the total down to 12,500.

Fokker has not said whether the plan will require support from its main shareholders, Daimler-Benz Aerospace and the Dutch Government. The company's balance sheet is due to be relieved of around DFl1 billion ($585 million) in aircraft financing, when a new Daimler-Benz-led financing company is established early in May.

Meanwhile, the Dutch company is making progress in its plans for a radical reduction in production lead times. The aim is to cut the time between contract signing and delivery of a regional jet down to nine months. Assembly times have already come down, from 120 to 55 days, and could fall further.

Source: Flight International