Federal hiring freeze leaves Pearl Harbor shipyard in limbo

Federal hiring freeze leaves Pearl Harbor shipyard in limbo

PEARL HARBOR (HawaiiNewsNow) - The president's nationwide hiring freeze on federal civilian workers has stopped the process of bringing in future painters, pipe workers, electricians, welders and clerical staff at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

That's according to Hawaii Federal Employees Metal Trades Council President Jeffrey Philipp, who said the freeze could cause a shortage of manpower.

"We can cover almost every single job or trade," he said. "We've got to continuously have the numbers to match the projected workload we're given."

Jamie Hiranaka, president of the International Federation of of Professional and TechnIcal Engineers, worries the hiring freeze will affect efficiency and productivity.

"In order to meet our workload we have about 300-plus more people to bring in," she said. "But it takes three to four years to get people trained up. So it's actually affecting not just now but the out years."

The Trump administration said the president's order will control government growth and save taxpayers money.

President Trump issued the freeze Jan. 23, and the order also seeks a "long-term plan to reduce the size of the government's workforce through attrition."

The freeze doesn't apply to military, national security or public safety personnel. The administration didn't specify, however, if civilian shipyard employees across the nation are considered essential for national security.

Eight senators, including U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, sent a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis urging him to exempt shipyard workers at Navy and public shipyards.

In a written statement to Hawaii News Now, Schatz said Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard workers are "critical to our national security."

"With discussions underway to expand the Navy's fleet, we need to ensure that we will have the necessary civilian workforce at Pearl Harbor to maintain our naval assets and keep our country safe," he said.

Hiranaka agreed, saying that, "If we're going to increase the workload and increase the Navy's ships, we're going to have to hire."

On Feb. 1, the shipyard will hold a job fair at the Neal Blaisdell Center.

Philipp thinks while the president's order is meant to save money, it could end up costing taxpayers more in the end.

"When you have a workload that's so big and you take away the manpower to support that workload it's going to result in massive costs in overtime, and the ships will not be able to get out on time as they should," he said.

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