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Portsmouth rally at noon Thursday focuses on sequestration

PORTSMOUTH - Representatives from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the New Hampshire AFL-CIO, local businesses and other federal workers will hold an action rally at Prescott Park at noon today to help connect the dots between sequestration and local community impact.

Paul O'Connor, president of the Metal Trades Council at the shipyard, said the goal of the rally is awareness.

"So people understand that sequestration will have a real impact on the local community, that is the big message - there is going to be a significant impact locally," O'Connor said.

The impact goes beyond the fact that more than 5,000 shipyard employees will likely receive furlough notices next week, requiring them to take 22 unpaid furlough days between now and September.

O'Connor said this will indirectly affect local businesses, including restaurants and retail stores, as a result of workers losing about 20 percent of their paychecks.

Despite the conversations happening at affected federal facilities, O'Connor said there are still a lot of people who don't see a connection between the federal sequestration issue and the impact to the local economy.

"I guess as this unfolds and sequestration continues, more and more people will feel the impact, that's just how it is going to be," O'Connor said.

He said hopefully Congress will find a way to figure it out, but everything he has seen so far is not promising.

"The legislation to offset sequestration is full of language that adversely impacts federal employees - continuing pay freezes indefinitely, decreasing retirement benefits . there are folks in Congress that made it very clear their goal is to shrink the size of the federal government at all costs," O'Connor said.

He said the government is not going to save a penny by furloughing the shipyard's workforce. In fact, he said, in the long run, it will cost taxpayers more.

As schedules slip on boats already at the shipyard because employees are not there to work on them, it will affect every project down the line, he said.

The rally was originally scheduled for Wednesday but was postponed as a result of the weather. It will kick off today in Prescott Park at noon.


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