PORTSMOUTH—After weeks of waiting and worrying, thousands of workers at Norfolk Naval Shipyard can rest a little easier. Most of the shipyard’s 9,000 civilian Department of Defense workers have been spared from sequestration-related furloughs.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made it official Tuesday, announcing that 29,000 workers at the nation’s four public Naval shipyards would be excluded.
The decision came after the Navy successfully argued that furloughs would cause costly delays on work being done on nuclear powered aircraft carriers and submarines and would cause disproportionate damage to military readiness.
Outside the shipyard’s gate 10 Wednesday, workers and union leaders said they are relieved.
“It’s been very stressful, a lot of people lost a lot of sleep, worried about how they were going to pay the bills,” said Randy Johnson, shop steward for the Pipefitters union. “Prayer helps.”
“My reaction was I was excited,” said Cookie Harris, chairperson for the Tidewater Metal Trades Council. “It was exciting just to hear they could still go to work and do their jobs and do it proficiently. It was outstanding.”
Nearly 680,000 other Department of Defense civilian employees across the country face the 11-day furloughs between now and the end of the fiscal year on September 30.
It’s estimated that the forced days off without pay will save the Department of Defense $1.8 billion.