Bath Iron Works chief says work continues because it is 'so essential to the defense of our nation'

By Marjorie Censer / March 25, 2020 at 9:59 AM

Though a General Dynamics Bath Iron Works employee has tested positive for coronavirus, the business remains open because the president and the Navy have "mandated that we do so," according to a message from the unit's president.

In a letter to employees sent Monday, Dirk Lesko wrote that the company learned Sunday that "a member of the BIW family has tested positive for the Covid-19 virus."

"We remain open because the President of the United States and the United States Navy has mandated that we do so -- that the work we do is so essential to the defense of our nation that we must not shut down," he wrote. "As a designated 'Critical Infrastructure Industry,' our response to COVID-19 must focus on health and safety to the greatest extent possible, measured against the backdrop of supporting our nation's defense."

Lesko added that he appreciates the efforts of employees to come to work.

"Where people have been infected, there is a suspicion of infection, or present a higher risk of exposure, we have taken decisive action to quarantine and monitor employees, and we have increased our cleaning of facilities using the best available guidance from federal, state and local authorities coupled with common sense," he wrote. "For our colleague who tested positive, this individual has not been at work for 10 days and will remain off-site as will those employees who have been in close contact."

Lesko also instructed employees who are sick, have sick family members or have been exposed to the virus not to come to work.

"You have a number of options for ensuring your family's economic security and we are committed to employment security for any member of the BIW family who misses work related to this public health crisis," he continued.

The Maine AFL-CIO has a form on its website, previously reported by Defense One, through which employees can email Bath Iron Works and General Dynamics executives as well as a Navy official to ask to pause operations at BIW.