In this Sept. 8, 2021, file photo, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is seen in Kittery. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Monday was the deadline for federal workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, as ordered by President Joe Biden in September. In Maine, nearly 2,000 workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard are signaling they will reject the mandate, which could leave the Navy with a potential shortage of skilled employees.

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard officials said 70 percent of the facility’s 6,500 plus shipyard workers are fully vaccinated. That leaves more than 1,900 workers who may not be fully compliant with the mandate. The shipyard said employees who have not started the vaccination process will be given five days to reconsider getting the vaccine. After that, they face discipline, including a two-week suspension and even termination.

“If we lose this many people it will be very hard to complete the work on time for the Navy,” said Eudes James, the president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, which has filed an unfair labor practices complaint alleging that the shipyard failed to negotiate the mandate process with the union.

James said many members want to see an alternative to vaccination, and will stand firm against the mandate.

Alana Schaeffer of the Metal Trades Council said she is still negotiating the mandate implementation with the shipyard on behalf of her members, and she doesn’t expect that management will walk any vaccine holdouts out of the gate. But she said Biden’s executive order will be enforced.

“Those employees that do not receive an exemption or comply with the mandate from our president and not the shipyard, I don’t see any other result than that progressive discipline paying out however long that takes,” Schaeffer said.

The shipyard, meanwhile, said it will use temporary appointments to fill vacancies and use direct hire authority under federal law to expedite hiring critical positions. In addition, Portsmouth said it could borrow workers from any of the Navy’s three other public shipyards.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.