Huntington CEO Doesn’t See Need for You-May-Be-Fired Notices

Photograph by Christopher Powers/Bloomberg

Mike Petters, president and CEO of Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.

The chief executive officer of Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. says he doesn’t think it would serve the company’s purposes to issue mass-dismissal warnings to workers even if U.S. spending cuts occur later this year.

“We are much more of a long-term business,” said Mike Petters, CEO of  Newport News, Virginia-based Huntington, the U.S. Navy’s sole builder of  aircraft carriers.

The exception might be if the U.S. government makes changes to existing  contracts, Petters said today at a roundtable discussion with reporters in  Washington.

Defense contractors face automatic Pentagon cuts totaling about $45 billion this year unless the White House and lawmakers agree by March 1 to an alternate deficit reduction plan.

The U.S. Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, known as the WARN Act, requires most employers with 100 or more workers to give 60 days’ notice of plant closings or “mass layoffs.”

Huntington, spun off from Falls Church, Virginia-based Northrop Grumman Corp. in 2011, is winding down naval operations at its Avondale shipyard in Louisiana, Petters said. He suggested the facility may be redeployed for commercial use.

He mentioned construction work related to refineries and gas plants as a  possible alternative to shipbuilding at the facility.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for those plants to be modularly-constructed,”  he said. “We have a pretty good sense of how to do that, both from an  engineering standpoint and from a construction standpoint.”

Petters said he couldn’t provide a timeline or say what kind of investment would be necessary to shift gears. He said he was “under no illusions” about the challenges.

“I am very aware that shipyards have struggled when they’ve gotten away from
shipbuilding,” he said.

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