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Bath Iron Works denies 'work from home' requests during coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic

Bath Iron Works says office employees cannot work from home because of security reasons

BATH, Maine — Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works continues operations as usual, even after a second worker tested positive for the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

Meanwhile, some BIW office workers are speaking out to say they can and should be permitted to work from home.

BIW telecommunications and mobility technician Shauna Silva said, "Obviously you can't let all of the ship workers [work from home] because they're building a ship, but the office workers, I think we're overlooked."

It's a dilemma another employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said many at BIW are facing. 

"I know there's a number of folks who are anxious, worried and feel like they're trapped between choosing between their health and their family's health and their job," said anonymous. 

In Silva's case, she says she can absolutely work from home. 

"I can remote into my computer at work...I have the ability to, I have still been answering phone calls and emails."

In a statement, Bath Iron Works said it's not just about ability, it's about security: 

BIW does not have a standard telecommuting policy at this time. As a manufacturing facility, the vast majority of our employees need to be onsite to do their jobs. Also, because our work is critical to national security, telecommuting would create significant security concerns for many of our employees.

However, workers disagree security is the primary reasoning.

Silva said, "I honestly think the biggest thing is that they can't track what we're doing, they can't track our productivity."

Anonymous said, "Word on the street is it's a monitoring productivity issue."

Other naval shipyards, including Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, are implementing teleworking and remote working.

In a Facebook post about the COVID-19 crisis from March 29, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard said it will "continuing to maximize telework and remote work that progresses mission-essential work." 

The full post says: 

This change also challenges us as a shipyard to find creative ways to respond to the conditions in our area to effectively meet the needs of our people while we continue to do our part in maintaining maritime superiority and expanding the advantage for the Navy. This includes us maturing our distributed workforce plan, taking a hard look at expanding the use of our back shifts, being flexible with alternate work schedules, and continuing to maximize telework and remote work that progresses mission-essential work.

RELATED: Mills and Maine Delegation put pressure on Defense Dept. over health concerns for BIW workers

RELATED: 2nd Bath Iron Works employee tests positive for coronavirus, COVID-19

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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