Newport News Shipbuilding to lay off 738 workers

Posted at 8:52 AM, Dec 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-04 17:39:21-05

Newport News, Va. (WTKR) - Newport News Shipbuilding has notified 738 workers that they will be laid off on February 3rd.

The layoffs come just a few months after 480 employees were laid off from the shipyard in September. All of the layoffs are part of approximately 1,500 layoffs announced in July that are expected to take place over the next two years.

The shipyard is required to provide 60 days notice to the employees due to the large number of workers being laid off.

Mulherin sent this letter to employees on Friday morning:

Dear Shipbuilders:

I have the difficult responsibility of announcing our next round of layoffs, which will take place on February 3 and will affect 738 employees.  Because of the number of people being laid off, we are required to provide 60 days advance notice.  The impacted employees are being notified today, and they will continue to work for the next 60 days.

There is never a good time to make these reductions, and I know it is especially difficult to be notified just before the holidays.  The decision for how and when to schedule layoffs is based on our workload, and only after all other options have been exhausted.

Today, our priority is for the well-being of the impacted employees.  All impacted employees working third and first shifts, who are here today, should be notified by 11 a.m. today.  We will be notifying second shift employees this afternoon, and are in the process of notifying any impacted employees who are not at work today.

We are providing benefits and transition assistance to help them in finding other employment.  We understand this reduction in force impacts the employees being laid off, as well as those who remain.  Additionally, our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to employees who need on-site counseling and assistance during this difficult time, by calling 757-251-3760 or 1-855-400-9185.

I know this news is difficult to hear.  We are losing 738 great shipbuilders.  During this stressful and challenging time, please remember that the workload valley has both a beginning and end as our workload increases again in 2017.  My hope is that these shipbuilders will consider coming back once our workload increases.

After the February 3 layoff, we still anticipate additional layoffs next year, but it is too early to know how many people will be impacted and precisely when it will happen.  We are continuing to pursue additional growth opportunities and are committed to communicating updates.

I appreciate all you are doing to focus on the work at hand.  Strong, safe performance is the best way we can weather this workload valley.

The reductions are an effort to reduce spending due to a decrease in workload. The workload is expected to increase again in 2017.

The majority of the 738 workers being laid off in this round are hourly employees. Many are represented by United Steelworkers Local 8888.

"If it had happened in March, it still wouldn't have been a good day. If it happened in January, it wouldn't have been a good day. No day is a good day to lose good workers, quality workers, the best shipbuilders in the world," Vice President Charles Spivey told NewsChannel 3's Todd Corillo Friday.

Al Hooper is one of the owners of the Downtown Cafe, across the street from one of the gates to the shipyard.

He's already seen a decrease in business after the first round of layoffs, and is worried about the future.

"News of the layoffs here is very devastating. Very detrimental to establishments like ours who thrive on the business of the shipyard," Hooper explained.

All laid off employees will be offered severance benefits and outplacement sessions, such as job search training, external job fairs, one-on-one career counseling, and transition processing.


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