San Diego shipbuilder General Dynamics NASSCO has notified nearly 1,500 workers that they could be out of a job next month.
The shipbuilder, however, says it anticipates letting go of closer to 350 workers. NASSCO says the layoffs are related to a dry dock accident in July that caused damaged to its facilities, although the workers union president says other factors are at play.
“We are pursuing all available options to avoid or lessen the impact of these reductions and hope to increase our workforce as soon as possible to support work expected in 2019,” NASSCO president Kevin Graney said in a layoff notice to the state.
The list of jobs impacted includes 129 welders, 85 electricians, 84 painters and 82 pipe fitters.
Robert Godinez, who heads the Boilermakers Union Local 1998, said the number of potential layoffs is high because NASSCO uses an evaluation system to guide which workers it lays off. Those with the lowest evaluation are out first, and that can change with training.
Godinez said he expects the layoffs to last about four to six months until NASSCO can fix its dry dock.
"If they lay off 400, 500, 600, 700, that should cover that notification requirement," he said.
The layoffs come after NASSCO held a large hiring fair in April, as it looked to add 800 to 1,000 new welders and shipbuilders.
However, Godinez said the shipbuilder did not hire even close to that number. He said Navy repair work fizzled and that a construction project got set back. Additionally, a union newsletter mailed before the accident reported 48 workers had been laid off - a number too low to trigger a WARN public notice.
“People weren't ready for this, they weren't ready for the layoff,” Godinez said. “They were walking into the shipyard, they were watching these humongous banners that they’re going to be hiring like crazy and everyone’s on the upswing, and all of a sudden the layoffs start.”
At the time of the accident, the fire department said a barrier that keeps water from going into the ship collapsed, leading to a flood. No one was hurt. Godinez said 4 million gallons of water rushed in and hit a 70,000 ton ship. That damage is delaying the next order, leading to the potential layoffs.
NASSCO spokesman Dennis DuBard pinned the layoffs to the July 11 incident, and said the company is working to remedy the situation. 10News has since inquired about issues related to the April hiring event.
“We are working diligently so not all employees who were notified will be affected. We regret the impact this will have on employees and their families,” DuBard said. “The company has arranged a variety of programs and resources to assist those who will be affected.”
Godinez said the union would be working to arrange for additional training for workers who could be laid off, so they can find new jobs.