Electric Boat revises layoff estimates
Groton — Electric Boat now says it will lay off about 200 fewer shipyard workers than expected after the loss of two major repair contracts, but it is still estimating that 300 designers could lose their jobs.
On Monday, 85 carpenters, painters, sheet metal workers, ship fitters and divers were told they will be let go Nov. 15, bringing the total number to 234 after EB issued layoff notices to 55 carpenters in July and to 94 trades workers in August.
The union that represents the shipyard workers had said last month it was told by EB that 450 to 500 employees could lose their jobs in the coming months because of the Navy's decisions to scrap rather than repair the USS Miami and to use workers from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, instead of EB workers, to repair the USS Springfield. Just over 12,000 people work for EB, of which 9,200 work at either the Groton or New London sites.
Company spokesman Robert Hamilton said he does not expect that any more employees will be affected by the change in plans for the two submarines because EB spread out some of the work that needs to be done on Virginia-class submarines over the coming months and adjusted the workers' shifts.
But, he said, EB is notifying the union that represents the designers that there will be some adjustments as major design projects finish, including the project to modify two older submarines to serve as moored training ships.
Fewer designers will be needed as the design for a new ballistic-missile submarine to replace the Ohio-class boats moves further along, Hamilton added. He said the company estimates 300 designers could be laid off between this year and next year.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said he continues to work with the Navy to find additional work for EB to reduce the number of layoffs and "protect critical personnel."
"We cannot allow large numbers of layoffs to just sort of happen," he said Monday.
Courtney said it was too soon, however, to make any announcements about those efforts since so much will depend on what happens with the federal budget.
The government is funded only through Sept. 30 and the necessary appropriations bills have yet to pass. Congress must either pass the bills or a continuing resolution to extend the current spending rates, or the government will shut down.
"It's like five-dimensional chess right now to keep track of all the challenges that surround this," Courtney said.
More than 350 people were hired at EB late last year and early this year to work on the Miami (SSN 755) and to perform maintenance work on other submarines. The Groton-based submarine was severely damaged at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in May 2012 when a civilian worker set a fire on board during a planned 20-month overhaul.
The Navy announced in August that the cost estimate for the Miami repairs had increased from $450 million to $700 million and, given the current fiscal constraints, top Navy leaders had decided to change course. EB also was expecting to repair the Springfield.
EB expects to start repairs in December on the USS Providence, a submarine that initially was scheduled to go to Kittery. But that $45 million job represents far fewer labor hours.
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A new report also notes that “continuing challenges” with the computer-aided software tool that Electric Boat is using to design the Columbia subs pose the risk for cost overruns and delays.