Friday, July 15, 2005

Shipyards fear
job-loss ripple effect

More than 2,500 blue-collar workers employed by Hawaii's private shipyards worry that their jobs might be on the chopping block if the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard goes out of business.

"There will definitely be a ripple effect," said Robert Lillis, who represents Local 1998 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Lillis, whose union represents 500 machinists at Pearl Harbor and 150 in private yards, said the Ship Repair Association of Hawaii estimates that 768 people work at private ship-repair facilities, and an additional 1,833 are employed by suppliers and private vendors.

"The workers in the private yards are very concerned," Lillis said. "They know if Pearl Harbor goes, they will go."

That is because a lot of private shipyard repair work is done at Pearl Harbor's dry dock 4 -- one of four maintained by the shipyard -- and Bravo pier.

The Chamber Commerce of Hawaii was told earlier this week that shuttering the 97-year-old Pearl Harbor shipyard would result in an annual economic loss of $1.3 billion and eliminate 2.2 percent of Oahu's total work force.

The Base Realignment and Closure commission asked the Pentagon on July 1 to justify its decision to keep Pearl Harbor open while closing Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Nearly 5,000 people work in the shipyard. However, the chamber's reports said there would be an additional 4,565 who are indirectly linked to Pearl Harbor whose jobs also would be in jeopardy.

On Monday the nine-member BRAC commission will take Pentagon testimony on its May 13 recommendation to close Portsmouth.

Hawaii's congressional delegation, led by Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Daniel Inouye, says there is more than enough work at the military's four shipyards to keep the Navy's aging fleet afloat.

Inouye said yesterday that the chamber's study "underscores in a very real way the economic value of the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

"But more importantly, what is incalculable is the strategic value of the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard to our nation's defense in the Asia-Pacific region, which is an area of increasing concern for us."

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie said that when Hawaii's congressional delegation talks to BRAC commissioners about Pearl Harbor, "we will focus on its strategic value."

However, he added, "these numbers add another dimension. They underline its importance to Hawaii's economy and the working families who earn their livings from the shipyard."

Abercrombie was referring to a meeting to take place Monday between BRAC commissioners and Inouye, Gov. Linda Lingle and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

Base Realignment and Closure commission
Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard

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