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Up to 600 may lose Electric Boat jobs

Associated Press / January 13, 2010

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MYSTIC, Conn. - Less maintenance and modernization work will result in hundreds of layoffs this year at the submarine maker Electric Boat, though new hires will leave the workforce numbers unchanged, the company said yesterday.

Executives of Electric Boat, a subsidiary of General Dynamics Corp., said between 400 and 600 layoffs are possible, in addition to 100 to 200 furloughs, spokesman Robert Hamilton said. Mainly affected will be so-called waterfront workers, who do carpentry and other trades.

The company’s shipyards in Groton, Conn., and North Kingstown, R.I., employ about 10,700 workers.

Electric Boat did 360,000 hours of maintenance and modernization work for naval shipyards in 2008, and the number fell to 100,000 hours last year, Hamilton said. The company expects “very little of that work this year.’’

President John P. Casey says Electric Boat will need to hire 300 to 400 engineers and designers to work on researching and developing the next-generation ballistic-missile program and to continue work on a surface ship program run by its partner, Northrop Grumman Newport News in Virginia, The Day newspaper of New London reported.

“Our engineering business looks so robust, we will probably not have the facilities we need to accommodate the engineering staff,’’ Casey said.

Analyst Paul Nisbet of JSA Research in Sarasota, Fla., said EB is losing work to Maine’s Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, which dodged a threatened closing in 2005. EB contracts that had extended for several years are now expiring, he said.

Kenneth DelaCruz, president of the Metal Trades Council, representing 2,600 workers at Electric Boat, said work also is drying up in shipyards in Washington state, Hawaii, Virginia, and elsewhere. “We’re not getting the calls like we have from the other yards,’’ he said.

Electric Boat will probably rehire construction trade workers; as a result, it expects the workforce to be level this year and grow in 2011.