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750 May Be Laid Off at Long Beach Shipyard

Times Staff Writer

The commander of the Long Beach Naval Shipyard has recommended layoffs at the sprawling Terminal Island facility that would pare the work force by about 750 within three months, it was disclosed Tuesday.

If approved by the Pentagon, the latest in a series of reductions would leave the shipyard with about 3,900 workers--well below a peak of more than 7,000 five years ago, when the yard was busy renovating the battleship Missouri and repairing other ships.

Once the second-largest employer in Long Beach, behind McDonnell Douglas Corp., the shipyard would fall to sixth place among local employers with the layoffs.

Frank Rodriguez, head of the shipyard’s joint labor unions, complained that the reduction would harm the Navy’s readiness in event of a national emergency because the yard was designed to repair battle-damaged ships.

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“If we get down low enough (in employment), we will not be able to do the complex jobs we do,” said Rodriguez, president of the yard’s Metal Trades Council. “It will take away our flexibility and . . . ability to respond.”

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Everett Pyatt confirmed in a letter to Rep. Glenn M. Anderson (D-San Pedro) earlier this month that he is weighing whether to accept a recommendation by shipyard commander Capt. Larry D. Johnson to lay off up to 520 permanent employees.

Shipyard labor officials say that more than 200 temporary workers would be dismissed as well. As of Tuesday, the yard employed 4,646 people, including 544 part-timers.

Pyatt has not said whether he will approve the cutbacks, but his letter noted that the shipyard has been bidding on ship overhauls based on a reduced work force.

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“If the manning is not adjusted as proposed by the shipyard commander, these bids must be withdrawn. Such action would further reduce workload and manning requirements,” Pyatt wrote.

Mandatory 60-day notices informing employees of layoffs could be issued April 28 if Pyatt gives his approval, yard sources said. Already, the yard is undergoing a management reorganization and eliminating apprentice and training programs in anticipation of the reduction.

“It’s kind of demoralizing when you’re waiting for the big hammer to fall,” Rodriguez said.

Yard officials had expected a relatively stable workload this year. But a provision of a federal appropriations bill passed last year requires that all contracts to upgrade warships be put out for open competition among public and private yards.

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Because of the new provision, officials canceled a plan to have the Long Beach facility begin renovation of the cruiser Halsey last month so that the job could be put up for bid. That development, in turn, created a workload lull that is expected to last until summer, when the carrier Ranger arrives for overhaul.


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