MAYPORT, Fla. – Financial trouble in Washington has hundreds of local workers bracing for layoffs.
If Congress can’t reach a compromise by March 1, hundreds of local ship workers could be out of a job.
Action News has learned BAE Systems Ship Repair mailed conditional WARN letters to more than 300 local workers this week. The company says those jobs are in jeopardy because of pending budget cuts on the federal level.
"We recognize the impact that this has to our employees and their families and the anxiety and angst that it creates,” said company spokesman John Measell. “We are working diligently with members of Congress and senior Navy officials to try to mitigate this.”
The company mailed notices to about 3,500 shipyard workers at navy bases at Mayport, San Diego, Pearl Harbor and Norfolk, Va.
“Right now we're hurting,” said Executive Director of Jacksonville Area Ship Repair Association Mike McGrath. “The small guys are trying to hang on."
McGrath’s group represents workers at BAE Systems. He worries work will soon dry up at Mayport and the base will lose skilled civilian employees. “As they go find work in other places, it will really be hard to get that talent back and still have the effectiveness and efficiency."
The Navy faces $4.6 billion in budget cuts if the government continues to be funded at fiscal-year 2012 levels. To prepare for automatic spending cuts, the U.S. Navy plans to cancel scheduled maintenance for more than 20 ships, which means companies like BAE would need fewer workers.
“We're still not certain as to which particular ships may be canceled in terms of ship repair, maintenance and modernization."
BAE tells Action News while it may have to downsize employees working on government ships, the company plans to expand its commercial ship repairs.