Bath Iron Works plans to lay off 118 workers just five days before Christmas, the largest single round of job cuts by the Bath-based military shipbuilder this year.
The layoffs on Dec. 20 will follow three rounds of cuts in September and November and bring the company’s total job losses for the year to more than 200.
BIW spokesman Jim DeMartini said the layoffs are part of a necessary adjustment of the company’s labor force to accommodate its ever-changing workload.
“These kinds of layoffs are unfortunately somewhat typical of the shipbuilding industry” because of its cyclical nature, DeMartini said. “However, this kind of announcement is never easy for us, especially at this time of year.”
BIW, a subsidiary of Virginia-based defense contractor General Dynamics Corp., eliminated a total of 121 positions in the layoffs in September and November – 42 insulator and pipe coverer jobs in September and 39 pipefitter positions on Nov. 18.
BIW planned to cut 81 more jobs on Nov. 22, including insulators, shipfitters and metal preparation technicians. But it saved 41 shipfitter jobs by moving those employees to another project.
Those 41 jobs are now scheduled to be cut this month, DeMartini said. “We absolutely hate to do this,” he said.
BIW, a major contractor for the Navy and one of Maine’s largest private employers with its more than 5,000 workers, has been the subject of considerable news coverage recently.
Much of the attention has centered on the DDG-1000, Zumwalt-class “stealth destroyer,” the product of a 20-year project that will cost taxpayers $21.5 billion for three ships.
The price includes an estimated $7.16 billion in research and development costs that delayed the project, which originally was expected to cost $35.8 billion for 32 ships, according to a recent analysis by Lawrence Korb at the Center for American Progress.
Reuters reported in November that the company is in the running for a multibillion-dollar contract with the Saudi Arabian government to expand its naval fleet. The Saudis are considering at least two ship designs, including the DDG-51, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer built by BIW.
On Tuesday, BIW also received a nearly $74 million extension on a contract for Navy destroyers and frigates. The Navy’s contract modification will allow the shipyard to continue with design, planning and other support services to maintain and modernize DDG-51 destroyers and FFG-7 frigates.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited the shipyard on Nov. 22 to tour the $3.5 billion DDG-1000, the first of its kind and the largest destroyer ever built for the Navy.
BIW lowered the Zumwalt into the Kennebec River on Oct. 28 so workers could test the engines and other systems and complete the final 15 percent of work on the ship. A scheduled christening ceremony was canceled because of the federal government shutdown.
BIW has contracts for two more DDG-1000s and is building two DDG-51 destroyers.
The shipyard has $2.8 billion in contracts to build at least four more Arleigh Burke destroyers through fiscal year 2017, with the possibility of a fifth ship if Congress awards additional funding.
Some residents in Bath have questioned whether BIW should get a $3.7 million tax break it requested from the city. In November, the Bath City Council approved the rebate, reduced from the original proposal of $6.3 million.
BIW has made close to 440 Navy and commercial ships since 1884.
J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at: