Martin Marietta plant loses Navy sonar work

January 08, 1992|By Lorraine Mirabella

Up to 125 workers at Martin Marietta Corp.'s Glen Burnie plant will be reassigned or laid off, employees learned yesterday, a day after the Navy canceled a $32 million contract to build submarine tracking devices.

The defense and commercial aerospace manufacturer, one of Anne Arundel County's largest private employers, handed letters to employees as they walked through the gates to inform them that the company will halt all work on TB23A Towed Arrays, listening devices used to detect submarines.

"While reduction in the work force is unavoidable, TB23A personnel will be reassigned to other programs where possible," the letter said.

Martin Marietta landed the contract to produce 68 TB23A Towed Arrays in 1989, soon after buying the plant from Gould Defense Systems. None of the products has been completed.

The Navy backed out of the contract because of technical and scheduling problems, said Buzz Bartlett, a Martin spokesman. He said the company tried to correct the problems but declined to elaborate further.

A supervisor in the product assurance division who worked for Gould for six years said problems with scheduling and equipment began almost immediately after Martin Marietta bought the plant.

"They couldn't get anything to work," said the supervisor, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job. "They'd flood us with a bunch of their engineers unfamiliar with the product."

The supervisor said he'd heard rumors of layoffs last week and believed between 50 and 75 engineers and technical workers had lost jobs since November, including eight people yesterday.

Mr. Bartlett could not confirm those numbers. He said the company had not told any employees they'd lost their jobs.

Referring to the company's promise to place as many workers as possible, the supervisor said, "It sounds real nice. But there's no place to reassign these people to. I'm aware of what work is on the floor. There's very little work."

He said he expected as many as 200 layoffs this week in manufacturing, testing and inspections.

But Mr. Bartlett scoffed at that figure. There are only 125 people in the program," he said. "When rumors start to roll, they're at the far end of credible."

The company started planning to reassign workers Monday, and by late yesterday still had no estimates on the number of layoffs, he said. The spokesman said he didn't know whether workers would move to Martin's Middle River plant or to other contracts producing different models of Towed Arrays.

The news of layoffs came a day after 94 retail workers lost jobs at Leedmark, a European-style hypermarket also in Glen Burnie.

Martin Marietta, which now employs 1,100 in Glen Burnie and 2,200 in Middle River, has been systematically cutting the work force over the past few years, Mr. Bartlett said.

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