Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. yesterday began advertising for new employes but denied a claim by the United Steelworkers of America that it is seeking replacements for workers who have been striking the yard for the past 37 days.

"For us it's business as usual, and we routinely advertise for new employes," said Tom Olds, corporate information manager for the shipbuilding firm, Virginia's largest private employer.

The advertisements appeared in the classified section of Virginia newspapers and said the company was accepting job applications in all departments.

A union spokesman said the employment ads "are a cruel joke" on the new hires "because they will be laid off when the strikers come back to work."

The advertisements are "trying to pressure the workers to go back," said the spokesman, who declined to be quoted by name.

The union and the company will appear before the National Labor Relations Board on March 19 for a hearing on allegations of vote fraud in the union's contested shipyard representation victory. The board already has cited the company for unfair labor practices in refusing to bargain with the union for a new contract.

Asked whether new shipbuilding employes would be assigned the jobs of strikers and whether they would keep their jobs if the strike ended, Olds said he could not answer either question with certainty.