Bombardier Aerospace said Thursday it is laying off 1,360 workers, or about 4.5 per cent of its total workforce, because of lower production of its Learjet and Challenger aircraft.

The company said that recruitment for production of other aircraft programs is expected to offset some of those cuts.

The Montreal-based company said its sites in the Montreal area will see the layoff of 210 permanent employees plus 500 temporary and subcontract workers. The remaining layoffs will be at sites in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Wichita, Kan.

"The industry is experiencing strong turbulence and we anticipate more volatility in the short term," Guy Hachey, president and chief operating officer of  Bombardier Aerospace, said in a release.

'We knew something was coming; we just didn't know when.' — David Chartrand, union representative

"The fundamentals of Bombardier Aerospace are solid, but we expect we will face more challenges this year," said Hachey.

Bombardier said it has received orders for 262 business jets, compared to an "exceptional" 452 orders for the same period last year. As a result, the company is reducing its production rate, saying it has seen a higher-than-usual number of deferrals and cancellations because of the weak global economy.

The staff cuts are taking place over a five-month period beginning this month.

While it is laying off staff from its Learjet and Challenger programs, Bombardier said it has 830 open permanent positions in Montreal and Belfast for work on its CSeries and Learjet 85 aircraft, and for its Global aircraft completion centre in Montreal. Roughly 730 of those jobs are in the Montreal area.

The company also said its aircraft deliveries for its 2009-2010 fiscal year are expected to be down from the previous year, with business aircraft deliveries and commercial aircraft deliveries both expected to be off approximately 10 per cent.

However, the company does expect to increase the production rate for its 78-seat Q400 turboprop aircraft due to rising demand.

Half of layoffs will affect Montreal workforce

More than 700 of the job cuts will take place in Montreal.

Two hundred of the Montreal workers affected have permanent jobs. The others are temporary and contract workers, said David Chartrand, Quebec representative with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the union that represents the workers.

He was not surprised by the cuts announced Thursday.

"We knew something was coming; we just didn't know when," said Chartrand. "Bombardier's fiscal year finishes Jan. 31, so we figured that by January or mid-February, we'd find out where we stand."

Chartrand said many of the affected employees do not have the appropriate skills to fill most of Bombardier's current Montreal job openings.

The news from Bombardier came on the same day that Boeing said its January orders dropped sharply year-over-year, while deliveries rose. The company reported just 18 jet orders for last month, down from 65 orders in January 2008. Deliveries rose to 35 planes from 34 year-over-year.

Last week, Chicago-based Boeing posted a surprising fourth-quarter loss and said it will eliminate 10,000 jobs.