KITTERY — Reducing sick leave, which cost the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard more than $7 million last year, is one way to help make up $16 million that the shipyard has lost in the past five months, officials said.
“Although this is a significant amount of money, we expect to recoup that loss by the end of the year,” said C.N. Strawbridge, the yard’s commander.
Strawbridge blamed the loss at the 3,900-employee shipyard on delays in refueling the USS Memphis, a nuclear submarine that was recently at the yard for work.
Strawbridge said Tuesday that he’s attempting to move employees from areas of decreased workload to areas that need to increase their work force. He also said the incentives for early retirement should help cut the shipyard’s costs, as well as efforts to use less electricity and close unused buildings.
The yard recently began offering early retirement to 250 workers. The yard’s union officials said the facility doesn’t have enough submarine-overhaul work to keep busy.
“The shipyard is not doing well,” said Vic Collinino, the No. 2 official in the controller’s office. “Everyone must look for ways to do their work more efficiently and less costly by focusing on improving.”
Collinino said one area needing attention is abuse of sick-leave benefits. The average daily absenteeism rate is 216 employees, or about 5 percent of the work force. Sick leave benefits cost the shipyard roughly $32,000 per day, Collinino said.
“Last year, sick leave cost over $7 million,” Collinino said. “When someone is sick, the work has to be done by someone else. It may have to be done on overtime, costing the shipyard money.”
He said one of the ways to prevent further layoffs is to reduce sick leave.