NEGOTIATIONS TO RESUME OVER VA. YARD LAYOFFS

NEGOTIATIONS TO RESUME OVER VA. YARD LAYOFFS

Arbitration between Newport News Shipbuilding and the United Steelworkers of America union over recent layoffs will resume next week, a yard executive said Wednesday.

The outcome is critical to the union, its local president has said. William L. Guerin, the yard's manager of labor relations, said the hearings would resume Tuesday.The quasi-judicial proceeding is designed to resolve a dispute growing out of the August layoffs of about 300 hourly employees.

The company acknowledged that it had departed from a strict adherence to seniority in making the cuts.

However, the shipyard said it had the right to lay off certain workers and keep other more junior ones, because of a clause in the contract that calls for adherence to seniority "where skill and ability are relatively equal."

About 60 laid-off workers filed grievances, said Danny Keefer, grievance chairman of the Steelworkers' Local 8888, which represents yard workers.

"If they win that thing, then we're in deep trouble," local President Raymond Coppedge said recently. "Because they can lay off anybody they want to."

"If we lose this case, I'd be afraid," Mr. Coppedge said.

Mr. Coppedge said the union had been caught off guard by the company's decision to drop its previous adherence to seniority in making cuts.