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THIOKOL PLANS TO LAY OFF 140 FROM SPACE OPERATIONS FORCE

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Thiokol Corp. plans to reduce its Space Operations work force by approximately 140 employees by early next month, and it's likely that most of the job cuts will occur in Utah.

Continued NASA downsizing is prompting the company to shrink its work force.Thiokol's space division, with 2,400 employees in Box Elder County and at the Freeport Center in Clearfield, manufactures and refurbishes the reusable solid rocket motors for the space shuttle.

It also has offices in Huntsville, Ala., and at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A company spokesman said it is too early to say which locations will lose jobs, but the majority likely will be in Utah.

"We're in the process of accepting volunteers," Thiokol's Steve Lawson said Thursday. "Where they'll come from and how the employees who don't volunteer are going to be selected has yet to be determined."

Employees were told of the reduction at the end of last month, Lawson said. The layoffs will become effective Sept. 12.

The move is part of Thiokol's response to cost reductions in NASA's shuttle program, which have resulted in lower profits for the company. And the company has more employees than it can afford and still make a profit, Lawson said.

On Wednesday, Thiokol reported that its fourth-quarter earnings for the space division fell 18 percent.

Although the company is asking employees to voluntarily give up their jobs, it might not accept every volunteer, Lawson said.

"While it's necessary to reduce the total work force in space (operations), the first consideration has to be safety," he said.

The company is offering an incentive package to those giving up their jobs, Lawson said. It also plans to offer separation allowances and outplacement services for the rest of the displaced employees.

Thiokol plans no more layoffs for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in June, Lawson said.