BATH, Maine — Bath Iron Works on Friday announced it would lay off 30 employees as part of a larger elimination of 160 positions in engineering and support areas such as human resources and finance.
In addition to the 30 layoffs, another 130 positions will be cut through retirements, transfers, resignations and canceled job postings, BIW spokesman Matt Wickenheiser said.
Wickenheiser said the layoffs are in no way related to a Sept. 15 announcement that the Maine shipyard was unsuccessful in its bid to build a new class of offshore patrol cutters for the U.S. Coast Guard, but it is instead “part of ongoing efforts to be more affordable.”
Shipyard President Fred Harris has focused on cost-cutting since he arrived at BIW in 2013, instituting a number of controversial workflow changes in an effort to make the company’s bid for the cutters competitive.
In January 2015, Harris said that should the yard not win the contract, as many as 1,200 manufacturing employees, or 35 percent of the shipyard’s workforce, could be laid off.
The 160 eliminated positions announced Friday “are normally on the ‘leading edge’ of layoffs because they’re non-billable to ongoing in-production programs,” industry analyst Jay Korman of the Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm The Avascent Group, said.
Wickenheiser said Friday that he had no information about potential additional layoffs.
Rich Nolon, president of the shipyard’s largest union, Local S6 of the machinists union, said he had not received word of any layoffs.
BIW officials met with the Coast Guard earlier this week in Washington, D.C., to discuss the bids, Wickenheiser confirmed on Friday.
Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King will be debriefed by Coast Guard officials in October, their offices said.
Meanwhile, various news agencies reported this week that the Coast Guard is preparing for the offshore patrol cutter award to be protested by either BIW or Bollinger, the other shipyard that lost out to Eastern Shipbuilding, the Florida company that won a $2.4 billion cutter contract that could swell to close to $11 billion if the Coast Guard follows through with plans for 25 of the vessels.
Such protests are not uncommon — and are rarely successful, Korman said.
In April 2014, just two months after it was announced, two Mississippi shipyards protested a $65 million contract awarded to BIW, Bollinger and Eastern Shipbuilding for preliminary work on the Coast Guard cutters.
That month, work at the three shipyards halted after Huntington Ingalls Industries, which owns Ingalls Shipbuilding, and VT Halter Marine Inc., filed protests with the U.S. Government Accountability Office, arguing that they should not have been eliminated from the competition.
The protests were denied in June 2014.
Temporary layoffs are a fact of life at the Bath shipyard — which employs about 6,100 workers — as the syncopated pace of building multiple Navy destroyers at the same time dictates which departments will be busy or fall into a lull. But Harris and union leaders had both pointed to the Coast Guard contract as a way to stabilize workflow at the shipyard in the coming years.