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Tuesday, September 19, 2000

Shipyard work force
to rise 300

But union members ask why
the Navy is hiring mainland
workers for the Pearl Harbor yard

By Gregg K. Kakesako

A key Navy maintenance officer says the work force at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, one of the largest employers in the state, will climb about 300 to 3,500 next year and stabilize.

Rear Adm. William Klemm, Pacific Fleet deputy chief of staff for maintenance, said the military is committed to keeping the shipyard as long as there are ships home-ported here.

But those assurances did not sit well with several Pearl Harbor union members and senior management personnel attending a special briefing by the Senate Transportation and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee at the state Capitol yesterday.

They wanted to know why the Navy keeps recruiting workers from mainland shipyards when there are people here in need of jobs.

Ben Toyama, Western area vice president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, and other shipyard managers asked Klemm why the Navy continues to recruit laborers from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in the state of Washington.

Klemm, a former shipyard commander at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia for three years, repeated several times that the Navy was bound to keep an overall labor force of 22,000 workers split among Pearl Harbor and three mainland shipyards.

"It's balancing personnel to match the workload," Klemm said.

Even if the Navy could hire 1,000 people here to meet a temporary increase in the work at Pearl Harbor, it would end up having to let them go at the end of three years when the work was over, Klemm said.

He said much of the work that had to be taken away from Pearl Harbor dealt with refueling of submarines and spreading the work among the other shipyards.

But Toyama told Klemm that "you are just tricking people, saying you are saving money, because it costs twice as much to bring people here to do the work."

After the hearing, Toyama said that, for the past year and half, the Navy has imported more than 300 workers from Puget Sound at an additional rate of $172 a day.

"We could have saved money by hiring a guy off the street," Toyama said.

Another union member noted that just last month, 1,700 people signed up for jobs at the shipyard -- the same type of workers the Navy is bringing from Puget Sound.

Klemm estimated that next year, 200 more people will be hired and an additional 150 will be added to its apprentice program.

"This (apprenticeship program) recognizes that our work force is aging," Klemm said. "This input recognizes the intent to survive."

Klemm said 85 percent of the workload at Pearl Harbor is submarine maintenance.

Of the 124 warships in the Pacific Fleet, 18 are submarines and 12 others are surface vessels home-ported at Pearl Harbor.

Klemm said one area underutilized at Pearl Harbor is a nearly 1,000-foot pier outside the facility's secure area.

The pier hasn't been maintained because it is basically configured to accommodate repairs to aircraft carriers -- none of which are berthed in Hawaii.

William Ryzewic, executive director of Pacific Fleet maintenance, said this is an area in which the state could possibly invest money to help foster a Navy-private sector ship-repair relationship.

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