Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. said it notified 2,000 of its employees Friday that they would be furloughed Monday if the shutdown of the federal government reached into next week, although a union official said the number was even higher.
The action affects at least 12 percent of the company's workforce, both salaried and hourly workers, half of whom are in Connecticut, Sikorsky said.
"Today we notified those employees who would be affected by the temporary layoffs necessitated by the U.S. government shutdown and its adverse impact on our company," spokesman Paul Jackson said in a written statement.
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Also on Friday, defense giant Lockheed Martin Corp. announced plans to furlough 3,000 workers on Monday as a result of the government shutdown.
Sikorsky, based in Stratford, declined to give a breakdown of Connecticut employees affected, but if the furloughs hit jobs proportionally across locations, including plants in Florida and New York, the number of state furloughs could top 1,000.
Rocco Calo, head of Teamsters Local 1150 at Sikorsky, said that the number of furloughs exceeds 2,000, even counting only hourly employees. He said that Sikorsky notified 2,194 of his workers in Connecticut and Florida that they would be temporarily laid off Monday if the shutdown continues.
"When they went back and looked through the shop and saw the workload, that was the number," he said. If the shutdown lasts until the following week, 1,100 more union members would be furloughed, Calo said. "Obviously, nobody's happy about it. There's a lot of anger, anxiety."
"We're being held hostage, along with a lot of others, by a handful of people in Congress," he said. "If there's a vote taken and the continuing resolution passes, this is all canceled."
The helicopter manufacturer's parent company, United Technologies Corp., said Wednesday that it would need to furlough thousands of Sikorsky workers if the shutdown lasts into next week. If it continues into the following week, the furloughs grow to 4,000 across UTC. And into next month, the total would reach 5,000.
Maryland-based Lockheed Martin, like UTC, expects the number of furloughs to grow as the government shutdown continues.
Since the government furloughed its contracting inspectors, defense work has slowed throughout the state, including at Electric Boat and Pratt & Whitney. The inspectors, responsible for quality control, move parts along to the next step in assembly and send completed orders out the door for delivery.
"These inspectors perform a critical and mandatory role in the inspection, acceptance and delivery of Sikorsky helicopters used by all branches of the U.S. armed forces," Jackson said. "Without them we cannot proceed with producing helicopters for the U.S. Department of Defense."
The third shift was told late Thursday night who would be furloughed, the union said. The first shift was told Friday morning, and the second shift was to be told Friday afternoon. In all cases, workers were also handed unemployment forms, a benefit they would be able to collect immediately upon furlough. "We thought it would be best to do that when they were notified," Calo said.
On Friday afternoon, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called on Congress to pick up the tab for unemployment costs caused by the federal shutdown, including the costs for Sikorsky and other companies, nonprofit groups that rely on federal money to fund their payroll and the state Department of Labor.
"As many of these workers begin applying for unemployment benefits, it's also unacceptable that Connecticut taxpayers be made to pay for the failures of Republicans in Washington," he said. "That's why I'm calling on Congress to ensure that, whenever this unnecessary shutdown is over, the federal government fully reimburses Connecticut — indeed all states — for the cost of unemployment benefits for workers."
"This manufactured political crisis is harming the United States. It must stop. It's time for Washington to get back to work addressing the challenges confronting this great nation," Malloy said.
Lockheed Martin said that it was urging furloughed employees to use available vacation time so that they are paid and keep their benefits.
"I'm disappointed that we must take these actions and we continue to encourage our lawmakers to come together to pass a funding bill that will end this shutdown," Marillyn A. Hewson, chief executive of Lockheed Martin, said in a written statement.