Greenwich Time October 02, 2013
Sikorsky furloughs 2,000 amid shutdown
By Richard Lee
The federal government shutdown has forced Sikorsky Aircraft to take the drastic action of furloughing about 2,000 of its workers as of Monday.
In a statement released late Wednesday afternoon, the company said the inability of Congress and the White House to reach a federal budget agreement and end the government shutdown has severely hampered its ability to manufacture and support helicopters used by the military.
"As a result of the government shutdown, we have no choice but to furlough approximately 2,000 employees across the enterprise, effective Monday, if a budget agreement is not reached and the government shutdown ended before then," said Sikorsky spokesman Paul Jackson in a prepared statement.
Besides the Stratford operation, the furlough will affect facilities in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Troy, Ala. If the shutdown continues through next week, the company, which has about 8,500 employees in Connecticut, said it will have to furlough an additional 1,000 employees.
"As we stated earlier this week, we could manage the impact of a shutdown for a short time, but would not be able to sustain production for any extended period without an adverse impact," Jackson said.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., whose district includes the Sikorsky plant in Stratford, blasted Republicans in Congress for the action that Sikorsky, a unit of Hartford-based United Technologies, was forced to take.
"The disastrous implications of the reckless Republican shutdown are quickly being felt in Connecticut," DeLauro said in an email. "Unless the Republicans end this self-inflicted crisis soon, nearly half of Sikorsky's hourly workforce will be furloughed with more to come, causing great harm to them and their families. The political games must end to keep these hard-working men and women on the job, prevent further pain for working families and end the damage it is inflicting on our economy."
The production and delivery of Sikorsky helicopters for the Department of Defense, including the workhorse Black Hawk, cannot proceed without the help of Defense Contract Management Agency staff who have been furloughed in the government shutdown, according to the company.
"DCMA personnel are a critical and required part of our U.S. government aircraft and parts inspection, acceptance, and delivery processes," Jackson said.
The shutdown is affecting other UTC operations, as well. If the Washington budget impasse continues through next week, UTC's Pratt & Whitney and UTC Aerospace Systems units would also be affected, and companywide furloughs are expected to double to include 4,000 workers, UTC reported.
This number could exceed 5,000 employees if the government shutdown continues into next month, UTC said in prepared comments. Should the shutdown continue for a long period, it could adversely affect customers' ability to maintain fleets, said John Pike, director of globalsecurity.org, a Virginia-based military analysis website.
"Around here, we think it will be at least a month," Pike said of the shutdown, and he noted another Washington conflict on the horizon.
"We have the debt ceiling in two weeks, and that will take them back to square one," Pike said. "I don't see either side backing down. A few months could begin to eat into (fleet management) capabilities. People expect to get their helicopters. If this goes on for a couple of months, people are going to have to start scrounging. It cuts into pilot time and could result in accidents."
The shutdown and its fallout come as Connecticut continues to struggle toward economic recovery.
"This and some private-sector job losses could really abort the recovery in the state," said Nick Perna, a Ridgefield-based economist and economic adviser to Waterbury-based Webster Bank. "None of this has to happen ... Congress still has a chance to redeem itself. The quicker it acts, the less collateral damage there will be."
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