WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Members of the Maine and N.H. Congressional Delegations wrote to the Department of Defense (DOD) Monday expressing their concern for public shipyard workers during the coronavirus pandemic. Their concern addresses an updated policy that reduces the paid administrative leave options available for shipyard workers.
Maine U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, N.H. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, as well as Maine U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and N.H. U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas wrote the letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Acting Navy Secretary James McPherson.
The updated policy creates impediments to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard workers staying home if necessary, to protect public health or the health of a vulnerable family member during the public health crisis.
The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery and Bath Iron Works in Bath have both been deemed essential by the DOD and the Trump administration.
A new policy at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard that took effect on Tuesday that now requires employees to utilize accrued sick leave or annual leave if they must miss work because they are sick, symptomatic, or live with at-risk members.
In March, the Navy and DOD took steps to protect these workers, which included permitting administrative leave for workers who have family with preexisting health conditions as well as for workers who were sick or symptomatic in order to minimize the risk to other shipyard employees.
“This change in leave policy comes on the heels of the tragic loss of one of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard’s civilian employees to COVID-19,” the members of the Maine and New Hampshire Congressional Delegations wrote. “We believe the administrative leave policy initially put in place was essential to protecting our most vulnerable shipyard workers and their family members, while also helping to avoid the potential spread of COVID-19 at our nation’s shipyards.”
“[W]e ask the Department of Defense and Navy to reinstate the initial personnel guidance to ensure the health of the public shipyard industrial base workforce as well as the rest of our defense workforce,” they continued. “We do not believe this is the time to create impediments or disincentives for sick or high-risk workers to stay home if necessary, as may be the case if they do not have any sick leave or other forms of paid leave available to them.”
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