Shipyard layoffs could top 1,500 by 2016

Layoffs at Newport News Shipbuilding could top 1,500 from now through 2016 as the company copes with a temporary drop in work, the company president told employees this week.

In a letter to the workforce, President Matt Mulherin said layoffs will exceed 500 people this year, with more details expected the fall. Next year, job cuts will “likely” exceed 1,000, he said. Those layoffs will be announced as work drops across the yard. The cutbacks will hit both salaried and hourly workers.

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The layoffs and other cost reductions are prompted by a lull in activity at Newport News, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries with a workforce that exceeds 23,000, making it Virginia’s largest industrial employer. It is the only shipyard where U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are built and refueled.

However, three aircraft carriers are scheduled to leave the yard over the next 18 months. The former USS Enterprise is being deactivated; the USS Abraham Lincoln will complete its overhaul and rejoin the fleet, and the Navy will take delivery of the first-in-class Gerald R. Ford.
Mulherin, in a July 9 letter to employees, said the drop in work would force the company to cut costs in hopes of preserving as many jobs as possible. This week, he made it clear that spending reductions alone will not be enough to save jobs.

Other cutbacks include no salaried merit increases in 2016 and 2017, no new approvals for a tuition reimbursement program and no training outside the company except what is required for specific job qualifications.

The company is planning no changes to its pension or 401K matching payments, Mulherin said.

The noon whistle blows and a steady stream of workers pours down the ramp leading from the battleship Indiana buildingways.This photo looks to be around 1940.
It will continue with construction of an employee health center. It should open later this year or in 2016. The two-story, 20,000-square-foot facility will offer a variety of primary-care services, including labs, X-rays, health and wellness services and an on-site pharmacy, to salaried employees and their families who participate in the company’s health care plan.

Talks are under way about allowing unionized workers to use the center as well, Mulherin said.

The company’s celebrated Apprentice School will also look for ways to reduce cuts, but the program will continue.

The shipyard’s workload is expected to increase in 2017 when the USS George Washington is scheduled to arrive for a refueling and overhaul, a job that will cost in excess of $4 billion and take more than three years.

Workers are also building the future USS John F. Kennedy, the second Ford-class carrier. In June, the Navy awarded the company nearly $4.3 billion to build the Kennedy.

A third Ford-class carrier is in the planning stages, and shipyard continues to build Virginia-class submarines in partnership with General Dynamics Electric Boat of Groton, Conn.

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