Bath Iron Works to lay off 130; Navy pledges funding for upcoming ships

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BATH — Bath Iron Works this week announced the layoffs of about 130 of its workers, effective March 2.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said she had been told by U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus that funding would be advanced on work related to the DDG-1000 line, avoiding layoffs in that program.

BIW spokesman Jim DeMartini said Wednesday that the layoffs effect workers on the DDG-51 program – carpenters, electricians, insulators, outside machinists, pipe coverers, pipe fitters, sand blasters and tinsmiths.

DeMartini said an effort is also underway to reduce the number of people to be laid off.

“It all depends on what jobs are needed and what qualifications the effected personnel have that would allow them to move to a different area,” he said.

DeMartini said the need for specific skills on the DDG-51 line is fluctuating, driving the need for layoffs in the affected trades.

Two vessels of that line, DDG 111  and DDG 112, are the last ones planned in the original DDG-51 group. The DDG 111, named the U.S.S. Spruance, is now out to sea and due to be delivered to the Navy this spring; the DDG 112, the U.S.S. Michael Murphy, is to be christened in May and delivered later this year.

DeMartini noted that “we’re going to look across the shipyard to see if we can match qualifications with the need for the resource. I can’t be really specific about whether it’ll be on DDG 112 or whether it’ll be on DDG-1000, but those are our choices, really.”

The first of the three DDG-1000 vessels should be delivered in 2013 or 2014, DeMartini said.

Pingree reported on Tuesday that Mabus, with whom she spoke that morning, had pledged to ensure that the Navy provides enough funding to avoid new layoffs and that interim funding for pending work would be paid in advance to allow BIW workers to keep their jobs.

“I told Sec. Mabus that we don’t want to lose industrial capacity – we don’t want to see workers laid off at Bath Iron Works,” Pingree said. “He completely agrees and said the Navy would provide advance funding to avoid layoffs at least through April while the final details of the DDG-1000 contracts are hammered out.”

A press release from Pingree’s office noted that without extra advance funding on contracts being negotiated between the Navy and BIW, some workers would have been laid off within two weeks. The extra funding is an advance on the work for the DDG-1000 line’s second and third ships, contracts for which BIW has been negotiating with the Navy.

“The secretary was very clear about layoffs,” Pingree said. “He assured me that no one was going to get laid off at BIW in the short term because of a lack of funding from the Navy.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.