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Civilian furloughs delayed at shipyard

PORTSMOUTH - Shipyard employees were notified Thursday afternoon that civilian furlough notices for Department of Defense employees will be delayed by two weeks.

Paul O'Connor, president of the Metal Trades Council, returned to his desk to find the notice after a sequestration action rally held by federal workers in Prescott Park.

"My first thought was, 'Great, 10 more rallies and we'll be down to no furlough days'," O'Connor said.

On Friday he will reach out to Navy leadership to get a better understanding of what the notice means.

According to the notice, the delay will allow the Department of Defense to "carefully analyze the impact of pending Continuing Resolution legislation on the department's resources."

The shipyard has been preparing to start 22 weeks of one-day furloughs at the end of April through the end of the fiscal year in September. Furlough notices were expected to be handed out early next week as 30-day notice is required.

O'Connor said this does not represent a resolution on sequestration.

"Something has happened that caused the Navy and the DoD to reassess based on new budget information, so it doesn't mean that furloughs will not happen," he said.

Earlier in the day, about 75 federal workers gathered at Prescott Park with the shipyard as a backdrop to talk about the impact sequestration will have on the shipyard, its workers, and the surrounding local economy.

John Emery has worked at the shipyard for 34 years. As he plans for a 20 percent cut in pay, he said the first thing to go will be the cable television.

But he is less concerned about himself than he is about the younger workers at the shipyard with mortgages, child care costs, and other expenses.

Down the street at Moe's sub shop, operations manager Chris Bistany said she is definitely concerned about the impact 22 weeks of furlough days at the shipyard could have on the business, particularly if they come on Fridays, the busiest day of deliveries from Moe's to the shipyard.

But even if they are staggered, a cut in pay for shipyard workers may mean they think twice about ordering out for lunch.

"It hurts no matter how you look at it," Bistany said.

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