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Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Navy criticized
on cost of hiring
from mainland

A Pearl Harbor union leader
believes the money could be better
spent hiring local workers

By Gregg K. Kakesako

The Navy has spent nearly $150,000 this year to relocate two civilian managers from the mainland to the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard -- a practice union officials have long opposed.

Ben Toyama, Western area vice president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, said the money could be better spent hiring local workers.

He said he believes the shipyard commander, Capt. Jeffrey Conners, has a bias against promoting local workers, noting Conners' statement that he wants to "broaden the gene pool" at Pearl Harbor by recruiting mainland candidates.

Jason Holm, Pearl Harbor spokesman, said two senior managers were hired this year and none last year.

The Navy paid $149,488 to relocate them.

The average relocation costs to bring employees from the mainland range from $60,000 to $70,000, he said.

Toyama also thinks the Navy does not intend to hire 300 workers, as key Navy officials have told state lawmakers and U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie.

Rear Adm. William Klemm, Pacific Fleet deputy chief of staff for maintenance, earlier this month told a state Senate committee that he wants to stabilize Pearl Harbor's work force at 3,500.

He said this means hiring 300 workers.

However, Toyama in a Sept. 25 letter to Abercrombie said statements by Klemm and Vice Adm. G. Nanos Jr., whose command includes Pearl Harbor and the Navy's three other mainland yards, are misleading.

"The current number of employees in Pearl Harbor is 3,457 civilians, of which 237 civilians are apprentices," Toyama said.

Holm acknowledged that 3,454 civilians were working at the shipyard as of Sept. 22.

Pearl Harbor -- which as the state's largest industrial operator once employed more than 7,000 civilians -- handles the repairs and overhauling needs for the 18 submarines and 12 warships stationed at Pearl Harbor.

Nanos also wrote to Abercrombie on Sept. 22 that "all naval shipyards follow the practice of borrowing workers during workload peaks and when specific trade skill imbalance exists.

"We continue this practice at all four of our naval shipyards in order to effectively balance workload and maintain efficiency."

Klemm has said that the Department of Defense has capped the number of civilians allowed to work at the four shipyards at 22,000 and that the workload has to be distributed among Pearl Harbor, Puget Sound, Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire.

Nanos said Pearl Harbor officials "are taking measures to reduce the number of borrowed workers."

But Toyama disagrees, noting that Pearl Harbor has not taken any steps to reduce the number of borrowed workers and even has signed an agreement with Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington to ensure a continual flow of West Coast workers. Toyama said the Navy is paying 300 West Coast workers an additional $172 a day in per diem to relocate to Hawaii temporarily.

Nanos said Pearl Harbor was forced to turn to borrowing workers because of a shortage of sailors to do maintenance work on ships.

Other workers had to be pulled off other jobs to cover this work under an experimental new Navy work program.

Several years ago, to save costs the Navy consolidated the operations of Pearl Harbor's submarine base intermediate maintenance activity and the shore intermediate maintenance activity into one operation.

But Toyama maintains that this pilot project is not working and has resulted in "understaffing and tremendous costs to the Navy."

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