KITTERY, Maine — Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is hiring more than 700 workers to deal with an increase in work as the Navy aims to reduce maintenance delays, particularly on nuclear submarines, officials say.
The hiring of 715 workers will boost the shipyard workforce from 4,700 to 5,200 civilian employees, once attrition is factored in, Capt. William Greene, shipyard commander, said Thursday.
Recruiting is underway as the shipyard prepares to hire more than 100 engineers and about 25 administrative personnel. The remainder will be trades-oriented jobs like fabricators, machinists, pipefitters, and electricians. The figures include 175 people selected for the next apprentice class program that begins in January.
The Navy is also hiring at its three other public shipyards, with about 1,520 workers at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, about 850 at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and about 730 at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, said spokeswoman Libby Morin.
The Navy is trying to keep pace with scheduled fleet maintenance.
The head of the Naval Sea Systems Command said in October that budget sequestration had contributed to maintenance delays for the Navy's fleet of nuclear submarines, especially attack submarines like those overhauled at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
"The shipyard's hiring plan is based on attrition and increased workload challenges," Greene said in a statement, citing scheduled maintenance on Virginia- and Los Angeles-class attack submarines.
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, located on an island in Kittery, Maine, has a military and civilian payroll of more than $450 million. The shipyard's civilian workforce is divided roughly evenly between Maine and New Hampshire.
The shipyard expects to see an increase in maintenance work this year, and possibly in the coming year, said Paul O'Connor, president of the Metal Trades Council, the largest union at the shipyard.
Mandated budget cuts necessitated by sequestration only added to a backlog of work — and served to drive up costs through overtime and deferred maintenance, O'Connor said.
"We need prudent, sensible budget modifications — not this wholesale slashing. It might sound good for someone running for re-election, but it doesn't play out well for taxpayers," he said.