New Contracts Spare BAE's Norfolk Yard from Pending Layoffs

The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) participates in a composite training unit exercise off the East Coast of the US in preparation for a deployment, 2013. (U.S. Navy photo/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tamara Vaughn/Released)
The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) participates in a composite training unit exercise off the East Coast of the US in preparation for a deployment, 2013. (U.S. Navy photo/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tamara Vaughn/Released)

The Navy announced that it has awarded BAE Systems Norfolk shipyard a contract worth nearly $52.5 million for maintenance work on the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge.

The new contract follows the awarding of two others to BAE last month that together will enable the yard to forgo laying off any of the additional 200 workers whose warning notices had been extended through the end of April.

"It's improved the outlook of the shipyard, and we no longer need to proceed with the previously announced layoff this month," Karl Johnson, a BAE spokesman, said Tuesday.

He noted, however, that challenges remain.

"There's still work to be won in the second half of the year to support the workforce at the shipyard going forward."

The yard now employs about 900, down from 1,475 in September.

At that time, the shipyard began a series of layoffs driven by a drop in the number of surface-combatant ships in Hampton Roads.

Another factor: changes in the Navy's maintenance plan, resulting from such decisions as the recent extension of the deployment of the carrier Harry S. Truman's battle group by a month.

"It's those changes to the Navy's maintenance plan that cause us to respond in kind to the volume of work in the port," Johnson said.

In 2012, there were 56 surface combatant vessels in Norfolk. As of January, the number had dropped to 38.

In April, the Navy announced the award of two contracts to BAE: One is worth up to $31.8 million for maintenance and modernization work on the cruiser Gettysburg and the other worth up to nearly $50 million for work on the destroyer McFaul.

A wave of layoffs has swept across the region's shipyards since September, putting about 1,700 employees out of work.

Nearly 1,220 were let go at Huntington Ingalls Industries' Newport News Shipbuilding, though 75 were later called back.

At the end of March, BAE laid off 170 workers and told 200 others that their layoff warnings had been extended, leaving them vulnerable for another month or so.

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