NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Newport News Shipbuilding said it would be laying off 314 people as part of a "workforce reduction."
Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding, posted about the decision on Facebook Friday afternoon.
"This is the first workforce reduction we’ve experienced in five years and comes after a thorough assessment of our business," she wrote. "This decision, along with the demotion of an additional 119 managers, more evenly distributes management spans and reshapes production and support ratios. All impacted employees have been notified."
Boykin said by the time of the announcement, every employee who would be affected had already been told of the coming change.
“It’s bad that anybody gets laid off,” said United Steelworkers union president Charles Spivey.
The union supports more than 12,000 hourly employees, and Spivey said none of them were impacted by the layoffs.
Newport News Shipbuilding is the largest industrial employer in Virginia, according to the company’s website.
A representative for the shipyard’s parent company, Huntington Ingalls Industries, would not comment and directed inquiries to Boykin’s letter. In it, she said this is the first workforce reduction in five years and came after a “thorough assessment of the business.” She also said the move better distributes resources.
“They assured me it had nothing to do with the White House or what party is in the White House,” said Spivey, who claimed to speak with NNS representatives earlier Friday.
Spivey said the union helped save some jobs by moving salaried workers into bargaining unit positions. United Steelworkers Local 8888 will reopen negotiations with Huntington Ingalls Industries in November, and Spivey remained encouraged that none of his workers were cut Friday. He does not think the layoffs will become a trend and remains optimistic.
“They’ll still have a backlog of work to be done. We still have a defense budget that hasn’t been attacked yet. We still have contracts for ships that need to be built, and we still have to do hiring here,” said Spivey.
This also doesn't mean that there will be a hiring freeze at the business.
"We will continue hiring for specific, critical positions," she wrote. "While these are very difficult decisions, they are necessary cost controls to help ensure the future of our shipyard and the affordability of the ships we build."
In the post, Boykin reminded employees of counseling services available to them, if needed:
Today is a tough day as we say goodbye to 314 fellow shipbuilders as part of a layoff impacting our salaried workforce. This is the first workforce reduction we’ve experienced in five years and comes after a thorough assessment of our business. This decision, along with the demotion of an additional 119 managers, more evenly distributes management spans and reshapes production and support ratios. All impacted employees have been notified.
Our priority is for the well-being of our employees, and we understand the impact this layoff has on them and their families. We are providing severance and benefits as well as transition assistance to aid them through this stressful time. We know there is impact on co-workers as well, and I want to remind everyone about the HERO Program (hiihero.com using access code: Huntington Ingalls), a free benefit to employees and their families. HERO has professional counselors experienced with helping families work through life’s challenges.
It is important to stress that our future remains strong even in the midst of today’s news. We will continue hiring for specific, critical positions. While these are very difficult decisions, they are necessary cost controls to help ensure the future of our shipyard and the affordability of the ships we build.