NEW HAVEN -- Submarine builder Electric Boat will cut up to 2,400 jobs next year and warned that it could eliminate half of its workforce in coming years as it faces a dwindling submarine market and a Navy policy directing repair work to public shipyards that survived the base closure process.
President John Casey said the decision to cut 20 percent of his workforce next year was a ''despicable task" but said the future of the firm is at stake.
Most jobs will be cut at the Connecticut shipyard in Groton, but between 500 and 600 will be eliminated from the company's facility at Quonset Point in North Kingstown, R.I. Electric Boat, a division of General Dynamics Corp., employs 11,800 people.
After 2006, company spokesman Bob Hamilton said, the numbers get murky, but he said company projections include a 50 percent reduction if new contracts aren't awarded. That would mean a workforce of about 6,000.
The job cuts come at an uncertain time for Electric Boat. Though the company has contracts to build nine submarines by 2014, the future of the submarine fleet is unclear. Maintenance work is dwindling and, for the first time, the next generation of submarines is not being designed, Casey said.
Submarine advocates have been pressing the Navy to boost production from about one to two ships a year. Projections show the nation's submarine fleet dwindling from the mid 50s to as low as the 30s, but the Pentagon isn't expected to release its official numbers until this spring.
''One boat every year, it's just not enough to sustain the workforce," said John Levangie, a 38-year Electric Boat employee who delivers mail and is the shop steward for office employees.