Bath Iron Works Adds More Non-Union Labor as Strike Continues

CCB union members show solidarity with the Local S6 strike (image courtesy Local S6)

Published Jul 3, 2020 4:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

Maine shipyard Bath Iron Works is bringing in additional non-union subcontractors in order to keep up work on its longstanding U.S. Navy destroyer contract, which is running months behind schedule. The move comes as the 4,300 members of shipbuilders' union IAM Local S6 - the majority of BIW's workforce - are out on strike over a contract disagreement. 

"We are outraged that this company would further expand its use of low-wage subcontracting,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. in a statement. “It’s a slap in the face to more than 4,300 IAM Local S6 shipbuilders who have worked through a pandemic and for generations to make this company successful.”

According to Bath, the new contractors will have no effect on the union's size or status. “First and foremost, the subcontracting that we’re doing does not impact a single job at Bath Iron Works. Not one person will be displaced because of this," BIW President Dirk Lesko told the AP.

Local S6 has been out on strike since June 22 after the expiry of their previous labor agreement with BIW. Following the recommendations of their negotiating committee, the union's members rejected BIW's new contract offer and approved a walkout by a margin of 87 to 13.

The dispute centers on both wages and work rules, especially the use of non-union contractors within the yard - a critical element for BIW as it aims to catch up on production delays and expand its workforce. 

"Since April of 2018, BIW has been clear that a fair contract is one that permits the company to quickly deploy available shipbuilders where they are needed most in order to meet the yard’s obligations to the Navy," BIW said in a recent statement. "We cannot offer a contract that sets this yard up for failure. The status quo must change."

Local S6 has called for renewed talks, and its negotiating committee is meeting with a federal mediator on Monday. BIW's Dirk Lesko told the AP that both sides would be joining federal mediation next week.