Army cut puts 311 Minnesota plant workers on paid leave

More than 300 workers at a Fridley defense plant are now on paid leave following a “stop work” order on an Army cannon once viewed as a weapon of the future.

Defense contractor BAE Systems this afternoon confirmed that about 311 workers are on paid leave as the company sorts through the Defense Department’s decision to stop the “manned vehicle program,” including the Fridley-built Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon.

A year ago, Army officials were praising the cannon, showing off the Minnesota-built prototype on the National Mall. But there were strong indications this spring the Defense Department planned to stop funding the “manned vehicle program.”

Last week, the department made it official. That led to the stop work order.

The 311 affected employees are part of a workforce of 1,450 at the Fridley plant. They were put on paid leave starting today for “an undefined duration,” said BAE Systems spokesman Ryan May.

“The full duration will be determined once we get the final termination notice from our customer,” which is expected within the next two weeks, he said.

About 308 workers at a BAE Systems plant in Santa Clara, California have also been put on paid leave.

It’s not known what will happen to the workers placed on leave. Said May:

Over the next several months, there may be additional impact on our workforce, but it is too early to speculate on exactly what those outcomes will be. We are doing all we can as a company to retain our talented employees.

Besides our posts on the cannon, My colleague Mike Caputo did a radio story for MPR News a couple weeks ago.

We got interested in the story, by the way, after a citizen source in our Public Insight Network dropped us a line with concern about cuts in the Defense Department proposed budget and what it meant for the cannon and the plant.

If you’re connected at all to the plant, please email me and let me know what you’re hearing.

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